GRIDLEY - Herschel "Pete" Peter Kearney, 88, of Gridley passed away at 2:30 a.m. on Monday, April 7, 2014, at Heritage Healthcare in El Paso while he slept.
Pete was born on Nov. 1, 1925, at the family farmhouse in Gridley. His parents were Edward S. Kearney and Irene Roberts Kearney.
He was preceded in death by his brother, Timothy, who was killed in action in New Guinea in World War II while serving in the U.S. Army.
Pete is survived by two daughters, Lynn Kearney (David Moore) of Atwater and Joan (Robert) Dittmer of Morton; son, Charles (and Shelley) Kearney of Gridley; four grandchildren, Tim (Katie) Dittmer of Newton, Mass., Christine (Doug) Glanert of Riverton, Katherine Maxine Dittmer of Chicago and Dan Dittmer of Morton; stepgrandsons, Jeff Flesher of Gridley and Eric (Michelle) Moore of Carmel, Ind.; and five great-grandchildren, Kennedy Flesher of Gridley, Jack and Charlie Dittmer of Newton, Mass., and David and William Moore of Carmel, Ind.
Pete attended St. Bede Academy in Peru, Ill. He was named to the Chicago Tribune All-State Football Team as a senior. On Oct. 16, 2004, he was inducted into the St. Bede High School Hall of Fame and was also named to the Bureau County Sports Hall of Fame.
Pete attended the University of Illinois and earned a letter in football his freshman year.
Upon his brother's death, Pete enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II and served in the Philippines. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy, Pete completed his college education at Illinois Wesleyan University, earning a bachelor's degree in science as a teacher. He played tackle (both ways) for the Titans football team and in November of 1948 the team won the last Corn Bowl.
Pete was recruited by the Chicago Bears but declined because of family commitments.
Pete married Kathryn Maxine Kaufman on Dec. 28, 1946, in El Paso. Pete and Maxine had three children, Lynn, Joan and Charles. His loving wife, Maxine, preceded him in death on Sept. 14, 2004. They had been married for 57 years. She was the love of his life. Pete was dedicated to his wife Maxine, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church in El Paso.
Pete worked for over 30 years as a paving superintendent, building Illinois interstate highway systems, highways and streets. He returned to the family farm, working with his son and later his friend, Dan. He drove a tractor into his 80s.
Pete was a lifelong Democrat, serving as the Gridley Township Supervisor for 20 years, and as a crop adjuster for Country Companies.
In his younger days he took great pleasure hunting and fishing with his uncles, cousins, friends and his son. As a family activity, he trained registered Shetland ponies, competing at county and state fairs in Illinois every summer for many years with great success, winning every Shetland pony class at the Illinois State Fair, including the grand championship.
Pete was a licensed private pilot and enjoyed flying his Cessna around the Midwest, much to the dismay of his wife, Maxine.
He loved his beer and his beer buddies, again much to the dismay of his wife, Maxine. He was a loyal fan of the Chicago Cubs and Bears, University of Illinois and University of Notre Dame football, the alma mater of his oldest grandson, Tim, who graduated with top honors.
He was proud of all his grandchildren: Chrissy, working for the Veterans Administration counseling vets; Katie Max, a CPA and accomplished boxer; and Danny, a fellow recipient of All-State honors in what the world calls football - soccer.
Pete's standard for life was working hard and playing hard. He was ornery and honest - sometimes to the discomfort of those present; a masterful teaser and rarely knew a stranger. Pete was a "colorful" storyteller and not afraid to embellish details, especially with stories about his grandchildren. He lived by his motto, "If you can't have fun, get the h _ _ _ out." He was a man's man in post WWII America.
Dad thought flowers were a waste of money, so in lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Online condolences may be sent to www.ruestmanharrisfuneralhome.com.
Memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 14, 2014, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in El Paso. Father Don Roszkowski will officiate. Family will receive friends from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ruestman-Harris Funeral Home in El Paso. A reception at Topsy's in El Paso will follow.
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