Ken Anderson (1928 - 2013)

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Anderson, Ken

In reading a book covering the funeral of Abraham Lincoln, I came upon some ideas that are important to share. We must remember that in our world, sorrow comes to all of us. Lincoln himself sought to alleviate our stress at these moments of great sadness. Though it seems that we will never feel better, we will. Lincoln believed that we all would be happy once again, and that knowing this fact will help us to be less miserable now. If we are willing to believe this, (and we must!) we will feel better right away. Then the memory of our father and mother will not be an agony; instead it will bring a sad, but sweet feeling in our hearts. This is a feeling we will know and embrace.

Kenneth Fritz Anderson was born on July 2nd, 1928, at the Swedish Covenant Hospital on Foster Avenue in northeast Chicago. The area is still referred to as Andersonville because of the large number of Swedish emigrants who chose to live there.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, 2 months, 15 days, and 37 seconds. He was also preceded in death by his parents, Fritz Nathaniel and Sylvia Cornelia Sofia Anderson. They were both from the province of Smaland in southern Sweden, though they didn't meet until both were living in Chicago in the late '20's.

Ken grew up playing all sports including soccer, especially for the Chicago Viking Athletic Association. He graduated to the Major Division Viking soccer team when he was still 15 years old and was a member of the Viking team that won the Major Division Championship and the Illinois State championship in 1945. That team went on to win the USA National Championship in 1946 at Comiskey Park.

He joined the US Army in early October, 1946, had basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and left for Japan on December 25th of that year. He spent 15 months with the 27th Infantry Wolfhounds, 25th Division, Osaka, Japan. Most of this period he drove a 2 ½ ton GMC traveling throughout southern Honshu. One of the most memorable experiences was a 45 day bivouac on Mt. Fuji. He was discharged from service on April 1, 1948.

He enrolled at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana that fall. He won academic honors there.

In the fall of 1949 he transferred to Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin, and graduated in 1952. While at Lawrence he met and became engaged to Ruth Pueschel. They were married on August 23rd, 1952, and embarked on their first teaching contract in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, where Ken taught junior and senior English, advised the Junior Class, was advisor to the school newspaper, began a creative writing magazine, coached forensics, directed the school plays, and coached some freshman football, for $3,150 for the year.

The summer of 1953 they began what eventually became 8 summers and a year in the UW-Madison Graduate School.

They went to Waterloo, Iowa for the second and third year of teaching, and then returned to the Fox Valley in 1955 where he began a ten-year teaching career at Neenah High School.

By that time his community theatre experience was considerable, and this included participation in Neenah's Winnebago Players in '51,

Attic Theatre in 1952, and the founding of Riverside Players in Neenah in 1957.

In fall of 1965 he joined the UW-Fox Valley Center on Midway Road, Menasha, with the responsibility of founding a theatre program and I also had two classes in speech.

He asked to be able to enroll community residents in the program. This plan continues because of its efficiency in teaching theatre, a discipline which provides the best educational experience among all other disciplines.

In 1967 he began soccer in the UW-Center system. His first team at UW-Fox Valley played their games on the front lawn, a suggestion made by the Athletic Director, Robert Goemans, since all the motorists on Midway Road could watch us.

We played games against a Dutch team that included Tony Ansems and at half back and Harry Kelderman at fullback.

At Lawrence we had two teams of seven players, six who had never played soccer. I was on one team and my best friend Larry was on the other.

Special Awards include the following:

"Young Man of the Year" by the Neenah-Menasha Jaycees., 1962.

The Governor's Award In Support of the Arts for Distinguished Personal Services, 1987,"The State of Wisconsin Governor's Award In support of the Arts for Distinguished Personal Service."

The "Cutting Edge award given by the Appleton Joint Rotary Clubs to Local Educators who have made outstanding contributions to their students, school, and community. " (5/20/90) The citation reads, "Anderson is being honored for bringing theatre to the Fox Cities community and community members to the theatre."

The Fox Valley Arts Alliance/AAL Renaissance Award 1995.

"This award goes to an individual who has devoted substantial time and energy, service and financial resources to the advancement of the arts in the Fox Valley."

In the annual election of outstanding Fox Valley businesses and members in the 9/13/2001 Post-Crescent. Anderson was the third place winner in the category of "Favorite Local Arts Performers."

In 2006 he was cited for the 50th anniversary of Riverside Players, the theatre he founded in 1957. He founded theatre at UW-Fox Valley in the fall of 1965. He was also a co-founder, along with the cast and crew of an Oklahoma production, for The Friends of Riverside, 1970. All former actors and crews of Riverside Players were invited to celebrate the 50th at the Radisson Hotel, Neenah. Later, UW-Fox Valley had its 50th.

In 2007 he was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, a presentation made by the Appleton Downtown Rotary. "In Appreciation of Tangible and Significant Assistance Given for the Furtherance of Better Understanding and Friendly Relations Among Peoples of the World." "The document is signed by the Chairman of The Rotary Foundation Trustees, and the President, Rotary International."

After retirement in 1998 as Emeritus Associate Professor the record shows that he had directed, usually produced, often acted in, and sometimes choreographed 300 productions of various kinds. This included 76 musicals and 56 other plays at UW-Fox. He has written two books on directing, Good Grief! Vol. I & II.

During retirement he wrote, directed and produced fundraising events, two for The Neenah Historical Society, two for the Appleton Golden "K" Kiwanis, and five for the Appleton Arboretum.

During his life he participated in all sports and was on championship teams in Chicago basketball, Chicago softball, soccer, and Midwest handball.

He loved his children and grandchildren.

The most important person in his life was his wife, Ruth, an unsurpassed companion and mother, the "love of his life," as writers have described this relationship.

He is survived by his daughter, Karen and her daughter, Ava; oldest son Jim and his wife, Julie, and their children, Lindsey, Molly, Lauren, and Will; his son, John and his wife, Janie, and their children Mady and Connor; his youngest son, Kenny, his wife, Kris, and their son, Adam.

He has a cousin, Ruth Ericson, who lives in Wheaton, Illinois , There are also numerous relatives in southern Sweden including his uncle Hakan Stromback, Karlstad, Sweden. There are more relatives Bredaryd, in Smoland.

Though Ken acknowledged that this obit is long, it isn't the 25 pages he was telling people about. He talked to another person who was aiming for a very brief obit. Here's what Ken suggested if it needed to be brief.

"I told you I wasn't feeling good. Ken."

*Ken's full obituary will be on display at the memorial service.

The memorial service will be held at Noon, on Saturday, October 26, 2013, at the Congregational UCC, 1511 Nicolet Blvd., Neenah, with Rev. Lynne Spencer-Smith officiating. There will be a visitation at the church from 10:00 AM until the hour of service. A reception will follow the service at the Congregational Church.

The fellowship will then continue at 5:30 PM at the Best Western Bridgewood Resort in Neenah, with a cookout style buffet.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund will be set up in Ken's name, with the proceeds going to these causes; a new scholarship fund; The Ken & Ruth Anderson Riverside Players Scholarship Award to be given to a Neenah High School student with plans to go college with a major in theater and drama. We will also support the scholarship already established in Ken & Ruth's names at the UW-Fox Valley Center Campus in Menasha.

Westgor Funeral Home

205 W. Doty Ave.

Neenah 722-7151

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Published in Appleton Post-Crescent on Oct. 20, 2013
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