Kenneth Frederick Rogers was born October 11, 1921 in Kensington, Kansas, the fourth son of Charles and Emma (Wagoner) Rogers. Preceding him in death were brothers Floyd, Donald (Dee), and Merlin (Babe) who were considerably older than Kenny and they considered it their duty to make him grow up “tough.” There was no gentle pampering for Kenny. A sister, Lois, followed the birth of Kenny five years later. She lives in Grand Junction, Colorado. Kenny’s father Charles, was a miller by trade and worked for Johnson Flour Mill. In 1938, when Kenny was a junior in high school, the flour mill caught fire and burned to the ground leaving Charles without employment. He was offered a job at the Lindsborg Flour Mill and the family decided to relocate. That year, Kenny and his best friend, Jake Knight, drove Jake’s Model-T to a dance in Nebraska. On their return they wrecked the car and the right side of Kenneth’s face was badly gashed from his cheek-bone to his chin. Kenny stayed with his brother, Merlin, and attended school in Smith Center until his face healed because he feared his mother’s reaction.
He was a good athlete and participated in football, basketball and track throughout high school. He graduated from Lindsborg High School the following year. He attended two years at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas and was voted ‘Most Popular Boy in College’. At the same time, Wanda Lucille Hannan was enrolling in college to pursue Art Education and this young, handsome man by the name of Kenny Rogers approached her. He was enrolled in education, pursuing a teaching and administration career. Each had met their soul mate for life.
When World War II invaded the peace of the world, Kenny went to Washington D.C. and worked for the F.B.I., but all his friends were being drafted and sent overseas to fight in the war. Kenny felt he wasn’t doing his duty, so he enlisted in the U.S. Army in August 1944, He went through boot camp and trained at Camp Howzee, Texas. Kenny kept a detailed journal of his tour of Army duty. Noted in his journal on October 5, 1944—This is it! Received shipping orders and moved out at night. Down to the train, to the boat and finally into the hold of the Liberty Ship—squeezed in like sardines. October 6—the ship’s motors began to hum early in the morning—we all crowded the rail to watch the ‘Old Lady’ slip by. “
They docked at the much-bombed port of Marseilles on October 20th. Kenny received orders to drive jeep for the commanding officer and take supplies and ammunition to the front line. On August 15, 1945 it was noted in his journal—“THE WAR ENDED TODAY—officially. We celebrated in our tent in the evening and talked of going home. September 14—a most important day in my life. We pulled into good old New York harbor September 18—HOME AT LAST.”
Wanda and Kenny were reunited and on September 30, 1945 the happy couple pledged their wedding vows to each other in the Methodist Church in Kensington, Kansas. It was raining but Wanda and Kenneth knew God was ‘pouring down blessings’ upon them.
Kenneth was honorably discharged at Fort Dix, New Jersey, He was awarded the Bronze Star Distinguished Medal of Honor, and World War II service medal for courageous and outstanding service to our country. After his discharge he returned to college and earned his teaching certificate. Hoping to get the job as coach at Minneapolis Elementary School, he went for an interview only to find the position was filled, but they offered him a job as principal. He accepted and enrolled in Colorado University in Boulder, Colorado to earn his Masters Degree in Administration before the school year started in September of 1946.
Kenneth was the Minneapolis Elementary School principal and their first-born son Tom’s sixth grade teacher that first year. The family moved to Colby in the fall of 1960 and Kenneth assumed the duties of principal of the Elementary School where he remained for the next twenty-five years, retiring in 1985. When school recessed for the summer Kenneth worked for several major insurance companies as a crop adjustor, appraising the damage in the wake of a hailstorm.
The Rogers’ home was blessed by four children. Tom, Jeanie, Alana and Tracy, five grand-children, LeAnna, Luke, Trisha, Garrett and Madison and five great-grandchildren, Liv, Guy, Fia, Libby, and Taylor. Much of Kenny and Wanda’s life centered around their children and school activities Because their father was the principal the children complained they couldn’t get into much mischief.
The family loved to go camping all over the country. They would camp with Kenny and Wanda’s siblings and their families or other friends. Everyone took their children. They always had fun together and in their later years Kenny and Wanda relished traveling throughout the United States in their 5th wheel camper, taking the least traveled roads. A cruise to Alaska was a highlight of their travels. The only state not visited was Hawaii.
Kenneth’s indulgences were watching sports of any kind. He could tell you scores and plays of games twenty years earlier and enthusiastically relive those games. An avid fan and supporter of the Colby Eagles, he attended or did the books for most all of the games. His love for the St. Louis Cardinals took him to many of those games, but often became a note of contention between he and Wanda with her being a Kansas City Royals fan. Gardening was also a pastime of Kenny’s and he loved to share the bounties of his yearly garden with neighbors and friends.
Kenny was a real “people person.” He loved visiting with anyone, was always interested in what others were doing and would often strike up conversations with complete strangers who soon became endeared as a new friend. Kenny was an honest person and never had a bad word to say about anyone. He was active in the American Legion, Lions Club, served as Elder in the Presbyterian Church, taught Sunday school and took pleasure in family life and traveling.
Kenneth was a well-respected man in the community and loved watching children of all ages learn. He loved his country, was a devoted husband, loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather and made a difference in many people’s lives. He will live in our hearts forever.