Kenneth B. McConnell

Obituary Condolences

Kenneth B. McConnell Obituary
McCONNELL, KENNETH B.; Attorney; passed away peacefully on September 28, 2013 at McLaren Hospital in Petoskey, MI after a short illness. He was 84. A beloved father, 'gramps', brother, cousin, companion and friend, he leaves a void in many lives. Born on a small farm in Arthur, Ontario in 1928, Ken was proud of his humble beginnings, his family and his Irish/Canadian heritage. The second oldest of six, he was forced to leave school at age 12 upon the death of his second parent. World War II was underway by then, and Ken worked in a series of factories and welding shops until he was old enough to follow his older brother Jack into the U.S. Army. He received a Victory Medal and Honorable Discharge in 1947, and proudly became a naturalized U.S. Citizen in 1949. Ken's military service entitled him to the GI Bill which enabled him to attend Hope College in Holland Michigan. Hope had developed a special program for returning veterans whom they determined had the intellect and motivation to succeed but lacked the usual high school degree. A perfect fit, Ken received his B.A. in June, 1951, and throughout his life remained truly grateful for the opportunity afforded him by Hope College. Proudly accepted by the University of Michigan Law School, Ken served as President (and janitor) of Delta Theta Phi law fraternity. In his senior year he was admitted to The Barristers, an honorary fraternity whose frequent reunions Ken always enjoyed and rarely missed. He received his J.D. degree in June, 1954. A member of the American, Michigan State and Oakland County Bar Associations, the American Judicature Society, and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, he particularly enjoyed the fellowship of the American College of Trial Lawyers. When inducted in a ceremony in London, England, in 1971, he was the youngest ever from Michigan, and was recognized as the longest serving before his death. Ken always enjoyed discussing cases with his brothers and sisters of the Bar, at the bar, or with anyone, anywhere. He simply loved the law! In all things, Ken McConnell dared to be different, but especially in the practice of law. He was known for being a maverick whose integrity, novel communication methods and quick mind served his clients well for over 50 years. Always prepared himself, he once became so fed up with the delaying antics of the opposing lawyer that he presented the Court with a formal "Motion to Spank" the offending counsel. He enjoyed heavy trial work, whether product liability, personal injury, or aviation suits of which he handled about 35 following his first such case in Gulfport, MS in 1968. He received considerable attention from the legal community in that case for his effective use of Probate Court discovery in trial preparation, rarely used at the time. He also represented two young girls in separate cases where their cotton flannel nightgowns had caught fire, resulting in massive burns and many surgeries for the girls who were fortunate to survive. Beyond providing financial security for the victims, the ensuing publicity about flammable fabrics has prevented many future tragedies, a gratifying outcome for this father of four. Ken's first experience with the Michigan Supreme Court as a 3rd year lawyer was unique as well, and gave a good indication of his character. It was a cold, wintry day, and the opposing counsel, the appellant, was held up by bad roads. Ken requested that their case be moved to the end of the docket, but the Justices refused, saying they waited for no counsel and he should proceed or the case would be dismissed. Undaunted, Ken strenuously argued the case FOR the absent attorney and then demolished it point by point. His client won. Ken has always enjoyed traveling in Ireland and had a real affinity for the Irish people and local culture. A room is always ready at his favorite B&B, and the chosen village pub will be advertising "Music Tonight! He took great pleasure in introducing American friends to "his" Ireland, knowing they would be welcome there. A member of the Victors Club, Ken has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Maize and Blue, holding season tickets and catching most of the bowl games for many years. His last game was with Notre Dame, just a few weeks ago. His loud and gruff "GO BLUE!" still echoes in the Big House. Ken was a long time resident of Bloomfield Hills while practicing in the area and raising his family. However, his heart was in the Upper Peninsula and for many years the Courts knew not to schedule his trials during deer season, and that once school was out for the summer, he was gone! In later years he moved permanently to his cabin near McMillan, MI, where he enjoyed deer hunting, trout fishing, golf and property development, with just an occasional legal matter. Always a genial host, second and third generations of friends and family have enjoyed his casual but warm hospitality at "The Cabin." Winters spent in Tucson, AZ golfing with old friends was a special pleasure and there, too, company found him. Ken is survived by his four children: Kendra (Barry) Hurd and Joany (Mark) Bond of Commerce, MI, Mark (Stacey) McConnell of Bloomfield Hills, Mary (David) Bows of Marblehead, MA; their mother, Nancy Crawford McConnell of Bloomfield; and four grandchildren: Kelly Hurd, Brian Hurd, Connor Bond and Jack Bond. His companion Colleen Hubbard of Newberry and his surviving siblings include sister, Shirley McConnell; brothers, William (Joy) McConnell and Andrew (Marlene) McConnell, all of Ontario, and Terry (Susan) Fitzgerald of Hawaii. He was pre-deceased by his parents, Bruce and Edna McConnell of Arthur, Ontario, and older brother, Jack and his wife Ann. His cousin Dorothy (Ron) Hudgens of Loveland, CO and numerous extended family members and friends he informally adopted into the family. Everyone who has known Ken McConnell, has a story to tell that family and friends would love to hear. Please come and share! A Celebration of his Life will be held at Edgewood Country Club, on 8399 Commerce Road just West of Union Lake Road in Commerce on Saturday, October 19, 2013 with visitation beginning at 2 p.m., shared remembrances at 4 p.m., and a casual dinner to follow. Remembrances may be shared online at
or may be faxed to 248-694-0955 or mailed to 3975 S. Shore Dr., Commerce, MI 48382. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Hope College - Office of College Advancement, PO Box 9000, Holland, MI 49422.
or the McLaren Hospital, Level 3 at Northern Michigan Hospital Foundation, 360 Connable Avenue, Petoskey, MI 49770.
Published in The Oakland Press on Oct. 4, 2013
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