RANDOLPH, NJ- On a June day in 1954, Mendham resident and high school senior Lee Kenny was rehearsing for his upcoming graduation in the school gym. Little did he know, a moment that would shape the next 65 years of his life was about to unfold.
Grace Kenny, his future high school sweetheart, happened to walk into the gymnasium during Lee’s rehearsal, and she sat down to watch.
“I saw this girl over there, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her; She had a beautiful white dress, she had a tan, she had long blonde hair,” said Kenny. “For some reason, when we finished our rehearsal, I went up to her and I said ‘Grace, can I give you a ride home’? I don’t know what made me do it.”
The Kenny’s moved into BrightView Senior living in Randolph, back in 2014. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Kenny recently shared details about his love story to honor the memory of his wife Grace, who passed away in June of 2019. Today marks the first Valentine’s Day he has spent without her in 65 years.
It didn’t take long for Kenny to propose to Grace, which he did in 1955. They were married in August of 1957–the start of many years of memories.
Having raised four children, some of whom moved across the country while others stayed local, the Kenny’s did a lot of moving around during their lifetime.
“Over our 65 years of togetherness, we probably had about 6 of 7 moves to different houses,” said Kenny. “We moved several times, but we did it together. We did everything together.”
Whether for Valentine’s Day, Anniversaries, Holiday’s, or Birthdays, Lee and Grace had traditions for all their celebrations.
“She loved her champagne, always had to have champagne in the house,” said Kenny. “And chocolate covered strawberries. Champagne and chocolate covered strawberries were a ritual for our special occasions.”
Lee mentioned that Grace was very social and enjoyed parties and gatherings. She also loved to dance.
“One time, for New Year’s Eve we were at a restaurant in Mendham,” Kenny explained. “When it came time to celebrate the New Year, she decided to lead a conga line from the restaurant portion that we were in, over to a restaurant across the street, singing When The Saints Go Marching In.”
As many families and couples do, the Kenny’s made a lot of memories on vacations they shared together. They took frequent trips to Bermuda and Florida, had a Pocono House for some years, and spent summers down the shore in LBI. Kenny’s favorite trip of all was to St Martin in Atlantis.
“Gracie loved the warm weather, she could take that weather all year round if she could,” said Kenny. “She tanned; I had to watch the sun because I’d sunburn and peel.”
Kenny remarked that he had played a lot of golf over his lifetime. His wife soon took up golf herself to share in the hobby with him, and one day she had a hole in one against him.
“She never let me live that down because I’ve played all my life and never had a hole in one, but she did,” said Kenny. “Whenever we were at a cocktail party, and the subject of golf came up, she would always go ‘But I had a hole in one, - he never had a hole in one’!”
As Grace’s years were winding down at BrightView, Kenny reflected on how she was still able to express her love for him.
“I knew that as long as I was with her, she was secure,” said Kenny “I would hold her hand while we watched TV, and she would take her other hand and rub mine, just to let me know that she was there.”
Kenny shared that he and Grace both had a very strong faith in God, stating, “I am thankful that the lord took Grace at the right time, when we were both still aware that our 62 years of love would live on.”
One thing about the Kenny's story will always remain true: fate.
“That’s why I say it was meant to be in our case,” said Kenny. “If she hadn’t shown up [in the gymnasium] that day, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about this. It was all fate. Fate meant it to be.”