Robert William Kennedy
November 22, 1923 – October 13, 2021
Sanger, California – Robert William Kennedy, longtime Sanger jeweler and businessman, died peacefully on October 13, 2021 at the age of 97.
He was born on November 22, 1923 to Ivan Delos and Catherine Adams Kennedy on their DeWolf Avenue ranch in Del Rey. Robert grew up with his older sister Evelyn on the ranch where his father grew grapes. Robert learned to work hard early on, helping his father build boxes, drive raisin bowls, mules and tractors, and kill rabbits and ground squirrels that damaged the vines and irrigation ditches.
He attended high school at DeWolf School, where his mother was his teacher in the first four grades. In 1941 he graduated from Sanger High School.
Deciding that agriculture was not for him, Robert was drawn to the booming aviation industry. In September 1941 he began studying instrument repair at the American School of Aircraft Instruments in Glendale. After the beginning of World War II, aircraft instrument repair became an important war industry. Robert graduated in June 1942. At the age of 19, he went east to Bedford, Ohio, where he worked as a supervisor for Jack & Heintz Co., making complex gyro instruments for autopilots in bombers.
When the war and his job ended, Robert decided to become a jeweler. He studied at the Bradley School of Engraving and the Bradley School for Jewelers and was an apprentice at a jeweler in Peoria, Illinois. In the spring of 1946 he founded Kenmor Jewelers in Sanger with his brother-in-law and partner Don Morrison.
Meanwhile, Robert was drafted into the army in May 1946. He served as a radio technician at Fort Bliss, Texas, repairing large model airplanes that were used as targets for gunners in training. He was released in early March 1947 when the army was demobilized.
In 1950, Robert married Oleta Brown and they had 25 years together until she died in 1975. In 1977 Robert married Norma Kingen, and they had been together for 41 years until she died in 2018.
At Kenmor Jewelers, Robert has repaired jewelry, watches and clocks for countless customers over the years. He was known for his good workmanship and his friendly dealings with customers. In 1974 he greeted his son-in-law Jerry Kemp and trained him in the business.
After 51 years in the business, Kenmor Jewelers in Sanger closed in 1997. Jerry Kemp continues the Kenmor Jewelers name in the Fresno store, which opened in 2003. Robert continued repairs for Jerry and from home until he was 95 years old.
In 2019 he was honored by the Sanger Masonic Lodge # 316 for 75 years of membership.
He leaves behind four children, Susan Kemp (Jerry) from Fresno, Cathy Baker (Bob) from Oklahoma, Christi Weybret (Marty) from Lodi and Dale Kingen (Joseph Boado) from Fresno; eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
The tour takes place on Wednesday October 20th from 4pm to 7pm at Wallin’s Sanger Funeral Home. The funeral will take place on Thursday, October 21st, at 2 p.m. in the Sanger cemetery.
Instead of flowers, people who want to remember Robert can donate to a charity of their choice.
Published by Fresno Bee on October 17, 2021.