Photo by Dave Warner – Kenny Gee spins his shovel during the 2018 Canal Days Parade.
by Dave Warner
It’s hard to write a story about someone you have never met, and you didn’t really know who he was until someone said that he was the guy with the shovel in the parade. And then you remember him and go “oh yeah, I have a picture of him somewhere.”
That starts the questions about who he was, how many people his life touched, and what a positive impact he had on this community with his smile and cheerful manner. Even my wife knew who he was, as she grew up here.
His obituary says: Kenneth W. Gee, 70 of W. Main Street, Little Falls, NY passed away Monday, October 22, 2018 at the Bassett Medical Center, Cooperstown where he had been a patient since October 16, 2018.
He was born on April 15, 1948 in Ilion, NY the son of the late George and Helen (Moon) Rose. He was educated in Little Falls schools.
He was married to the former Joanne Vosburgh, who predeceased him in 1986.
Ken, was a well-known and friendly member of the Little Falls community who was loved by many family and friends.
According to Deborah Kaufman “Growing up, we would see Kenny from across the street and he would make it a point to say hi and wave. I never saw him without a smile.”
It’s one of those things where you say “how can someone be happy all the time and make others feel so good by just saying hello,” said Kaufman.
According to Mayor Blask “When you think of Little Falls, you definitely think about Kenny Gee. Every single day, for 50 years at least, he walked around the streets of Little Falls.”
“People associate Little Falls with Doc Burke, but they associate it with Kenny Gee as well,” said Blask. “He brought Rick the barber coffee every morning at the same time, he had his routine. You sort of knew where he was. Always smiling, always happy, and wanting to engage you in conversation.”
If you ask people to tell you stories about Kenny, they’d tell you it would take more than a day to recount them all. Andy McEvoy said “he was somebody that would brighten everybody’s day. Helping people and telling everyone how great they were.”
McEvoy said he had known Kenny since back in the 70’s. “Kenny used to wash windows for us when we had the hardware store. Stuff I was doing, but he wanted the work. He was one of the hardest workers I knew,” he said.
“He loved shoveling, that was his thing,” said McEvoy.
Joe Buckley lived on High Street, when Kenny lived on Diamond Street. “He was older than me, but I knew him from being around, shoveling snow and working down at Dandy Donuts. He used to come in every Saturday when I was pumping gas.”
McEvoy said “He had a unique name for everybody. He had his own twist on how he pronounced it. It made you love him. He had such a heart of gold.”
According to everyone, he loved having his picture taken, especially during the parades.
Kenny also loved the ski area at Shu-Maker and used to go over and help McEvoy’s dad. “He just loved helping people. Anything you wanted him to do, as long as he was helping you,” said McEvoy.
“Kenny would come up to me all the time and say ‘I like you very much and your father too’, and then he’d say, ‘awww, he died,’ he’d always say that to me,” said Buckley.
Everyone said that they had a hard time thinking that he wasn’t here anymore. Buckley said “You think of a guy like that and you think he’ll last forever.”
According to McEvoy “He made such an impact on every single person he met. He left such a lasting impression, every single day. I still wait for the door to open and him to walk in.”
If you didn’t have a smile on your face, he’d put one on it. According to McEvoy, Kenny hated it when it was hot out. “On the days when it was 90 degrees, he’d come in here and be all upset. When it was like that was one of the few days he’d be upset.”
McEvoy would mess with him and tell him it was going to get a lot hotter. “I’d say I love the heat, and he’d get all mad like he was really pissed, but he wasn’t. It was the game he played with you.”
According to Buckley, “That’s what he did. That’s how he’d pick on you. He knew I hated winter, so he’d come by the with shovel laughing and tell me there was going to be two feet of snow coming that night.”
Everyone that you talk to in Little Falls, has a story about Kenny. The Kenny wave, or how he liked to go down to the fire station and they’d all keep watching him turn around and wave to them until he was almost out of sight. The police department and sitting in one of the patrol cars or the folks in city hall…they all have stories.
“He came in one day and I was wearing that shirt, the one right there (the yellow Shu-Maker shirt in the photos above and below) and he said ‘can I have that shirt?’ So I gave it to him and he wore it in the parades,” said Harold Peet.
Peet said “His father brought him over to Shu-Maker one time when we were making snow. And he said, ‘how do you check your snow?’ So I showed him how and he wanted to do that. He told everyone ‘I made snow! If it bounces off, it’s good!'”
“Kenny played a lot of people as well. Kenny was way smarter than most people gave him credit for,” said McEvoy.
He remembered details about everyone as well and there isn’t a single person that thinks he can be replaced. McEvoy said “He’s one of a kind.”
“Nobody will replace him, not Kenny,” said Buckley.
“He was a Little Falls icon From young to old, everyone knew Kenny Gee,” said McEvoy.
One final story about Kenny was the great cannon balls he do at the city pool. “Kenny could do a cannon ball like nobody. He’d go so freakin’ high that you’d think it was the Olympics. When Kenny was on the diving board, everyone would stand there and watch. He’d hit that water and still come up with a big smile. Everyone would be clapping for him,” said McEvoy.
Mayor Blask closed the last Common Council meeting by paying tribute to Kenny Gee. “What a special guy. He was just so ‘Little Falls’. So many of us in this room saw him every single day. Walking downtown, having a cup of coffee at Stewarts, in a park. He always took the time to say ‘hi’ to you and pretty soon he was going to say you were his best friend. Everybody had so many good things to say about him.”
It’s important to remember Kenny for his parades, for how happy he was. He will certainly be missed and that’s how I want it to end tonight,” said Blask.
According to Buckley “I guess we were the lucky ones to know him.”
“He’d say ‘you’re my best friend buddy,’ so it was a warm exchange with just a supper guy,” said Blask. “Another benefit of small town America.”
What better time to remember all these stories and a special person and to give thanks for all the smiles that he gave us. He will be sorely missed.