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Ken Thomlinson

Johnny Jones, 6 September 2004

Monday, August 30th, I got a shocking e-mail from Lance - that Ken Thomlinson had died suddenly the night before.

I asked, "You mean our police chief???"


Oh no! How could that be? I had talked with Kenny Friday at the Dairy Mart, where we had lunch! We sat with Kenny sometimes at the Senior Citizens lunch, and we were getting to know him better. We liked Kenny!

So when I heard there was to be a memorial service at the elementary school's multi-purpose room, we wanted to go.

Folding chairs were set up, and fire, police, and ambulance cars were parked outside. We talked with Barb Mathes, then found our seats.

People on the stage were fanning themselves. The overhead electric fans were on and loud, and we were thankful it wasn't any warmer.

I never knew Johnny Setzer had such a great voice until he began singing "What Would I Do Without Jesus?"

Mark Mayfield said that the first thing Kenny asked when he came back on duty after being off a couple days was, were any bad wrecks - and who was hurt - because he cared about people here.

Johnny Setzer said he asked Ken to get his EMT. Kenny wasn't sure - the test is harder now, and it had been years since he had been in school - but he took the class and got it, and was proud of having it. Sometimes when Johnny asked him to go on the ambulance Ken would say, "Well, it better be an emergency, because I was going fishing!"

Our sheriff, Alan Mathes, worked with Ken. He said they spent more time with one another than with their families. Alan also said you couldn't ask for a better friend. And when Ken was with you, you knew your back was covered. Alan said he and Ken had a special bond. He said Ken loved this community, he loved singing gospel music, and he loved the Cardinals.

Carla Kelly read a poem about unspoken heroes, as a tribute to Kenny.

Maggie Ronne said she and Ken were both junk collectors. She also said Ken "...was a good, kind man who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it plus his last penny. He went out in style to a better place." She said he loved his family, and his grandkids. She spoke on behalf of herself and the City Council in saying he would be missed.

Jamie Keen worked with Ken for nine years. "When my father passed away I said, 'I feel like I am all alone.' Kenny said, 'You will always have me.'" Kenny would go get himself and Jamie's daughter Melissa an ice cream cone every evening. "I would say, 'She doesn't need that!' and Kenny would reply with a smile, 'Now Mom, it's OK.' There were many nights he would come in and say 'Jammer, I have a new tape we can listen to? and it would be the Gaithers. And almost every afternoon I worked with him he would say, 'Hey Jammers, what's for supper?' and we would decide what to have."

Dana Mayberry presented a Bible to Judy, Kenneth's widow, on behalf of the City Council and the community.

Brother Cletus Nichols delivered the sermon. He told the story about the actor who quoted the 23rd Psalm to an audience, which remained unmoved. Then an old, uneducated preacher quoted the same Psalm and brought the audience to tears. The actor asked, "Why didn't they react to my performance?" Someone said, "You knew the Psalm, but the preacher knew the Shepherd." Then Brother Nichols added, "Kenny knew the Shepherd."

Kevin Abney sang one of the songs he and Ken wrote, "That Land of the Great Eternal Day." He remarked that Kenny meant everything he wrote. They loved to sing and write songs together.

More than one person spoke about Ken's having been like a grandfather for children, for teens. I also heard that he liked to play tricks on people, and could take a joke as well as give it.

It turns out we weren't the only people who liked Kenny. A lot of other people did, too. There were lots of misty eyes at the service, lots of tributes we could hardly hear because the speakers found it difficult to speak. The phrase I heard most often was that he will be deeply missed.

Yes, he was. Very much.