Kenneth Ray Richardson, age 81, of Benton; passed away at 3:27 p.m. Saturday, July 24, 2021, at the Memorial Medical Center of Springfield, Illinois.
Celebration of Life Services will be held at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, July 29, 2021, at the Leffler Funeral Home of Benton. National Guard Honors will be at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday. Visitation will be from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Thursday evening at the Leffler Funeral Home of Benton. Burial will be at a future date at the Masonic & Odd Fellows Cemetery of Benton.
Kenneth was born on January 16, 1940, in a small farmhouse built by his father, approximately one mile West of Snowflake. His parents were Roy and Martha (Beaty) Richardson.
On August 2, 1957, Kenneth enlisted in the National Guard at West Frankfort. From there he would report to Fort Leonard Wood Missouri for basic training. Upon graduation from basic training, he was sent to Fort Knox Kentucky to attend supply school, where he was on active duty for six months from September 1957 thru March 1958.
After returning home he had two things on his mind women and airplanes. He completed flight school, after six-and-one half hours of training he and his brother Donald bought their first plane (a 1943 Aeronica Champion). He had a friend get him a date with a very lovely girl Shirley Ann Gulley. Everything was going great. He had a girlfriend and an airplane. He crashed the plane and married the girl. He and Shirley were married on Sunday, June 19, 1960, had two sons Stephen on August 1, 1961, and Barry on December 29, 1963. Shirley would get sick with cancer in January, of 1972, and passed away on May 24, 1973.
After Shirley’s death, he became very lonely and sad; at the age of thirty-three with two young children to raise as well as make a living. Kenneth once wrote that this was the worst period of his life. His career would overtake his life and he would later regret not being able to be with his two sons on a regular basis.
After a couple month’s mourning, he would start dating again. A friend of his arranged a date with a friend of hers named Marleen McLain, Kenneth met Marleen, her parents and Marleen’s son Brent. Six months later, on February 14, 1974, he and Marleen would be married in the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church of West Frankfort.
His military career would continue until August 22, 1994. During this period-of-time, he held every enlisted grade in the Army up to and including Command Sergeant Major. He retired with 38 years of creditable service. He was stationed in West Frankfort from August 1957 to August 1985, where he was the Unit Administrator. In August 1985 thru August 1990, he was stationed in East St. Louis Illinois as the Battalion Command Sergeant Major and Military Personnel Technician. After five years of driving 186 miles per day, he transferred back to Mt. Vernon Illinois as the Unit Administrator. During these 38 years of service, he attended forty-five annual trainings, including Alaska in 1983, Germany in 1988, Honduras four times and Panama three times in 1990. He would receive thirty-four letters of appreciation, commendations and twenty-five military decorations. He served in fifteen different states on active- duty mobilizations, ranging from floods to student riots and civil unrest.
He would retire from the Military and relax, until February 1995 when his friend Mark Kern, President of Rend Lake College offered him a part-time job in the security department. He accepted the job and by September of 1995 it developed into a full-time job. He enjoyed his time at Rend Lake College, because he got to once again, work with young people, as well as very-good close working companions, that he never forgot.
Kenneth continued to serve in various capacities, including politics, and various boards and committees. He was the Past Chairman of the Franklin County Democrats, a member of Benton Masonic Lodge #64 A.F. and A.M., current member of the Franklin County Housing Authority Board, former member of the Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemetery Board, past Democrat Precinct Committeeman.
He attended the Immanuel Baptist Church
Kenneth enjoyed attending his grandchildren’s sporting events, working on projects with his family and neighbors, woodworking, and watching NASCAR. Most of all he enjoyed spending time with his wife Marleen and his family.
Surviving is his loving wife of 47 years, Marleen Richardson of Benton; three sons: Stephen Richardson and wife Sherry of Benton, Barry Richardson and wife Toni of Macedonia, Brent McLain of Benton; 12 grandchildren: Jason Richardson of Christopher, Brittany Richardson of Bloomdale, MO, Autuam Prater and husband Kyle of Princeton, IN, Colton Hiestand and wife Sierra of Kinmundy, IL, Bailey Hiestand and Corey of McLeansboro, IL, Taylor Walden of Macedonia, Gus Walden of Macedonia, Sidney Walden and fiancée Lane of McLeansboro, Amelia McLain and twin sister Madilyn McLain, Gabe McLain, Analisse McLain all of Benton; 8 great-grandchildren; a brother Dale Richardson and wife Janice of Ewing; two sisters-in-law Brenda Richardson of Benton, and Jamie Richardson of Marion; several nieces, nephews, and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents Roy and Martha Richardson; his first wife Shirley Ann Richardson; a sister Lois June Greenwood and husband Dale; three brothers: Charles Richardson, Donald Richardson, and James Richardson.
The family would prefer memorial donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Shriners Hospitals for Children.
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