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My father’s funeral in Arlington

After our limo passed through the gates of Arlington Cemetery, I looked to the left and saw two parents visiting their son or daughter. They sat on lawn chairs in front of a grave. It wasn’t the “missing man” formation of planes that flew over my head that made me cry. It wasn’t the horse-drawn coffin that disappeared against the silhouette of the trees that saddened me. The armed men, who were shooting into the sky as tribute, began to stalk me. It was the sacrifice and pain of loss that saddened me. All these men and women gave me their lives for this country. He was sad for his parents, wives and children. My father was old when he passed away. He lived a long and successful life. Most of the servicemen buried in Arlington did not have the same opportunity. This is what my father would communicate, if he had been there.

Charles Bernard Kenning, Attorney at Law was buried in Arlington Cemetery with Full Military Honors in February 2009. He was uncompromising, unyielding and strong. He would remind us that freedom is always at stake; he would ask you to respect the law.

Lesser lawyers learn to isolate, manipulate, and alter truths; however, Charles Kenning believed that there is truly no compromise. Our Founding Fathers fought tyranny with truth, values, compassion, and the rule of law. He believed that these men created the greatest democracy in history. Our Founding Fathers were great intellects. Many of them were not only statesmen, but also university rectors, lawyers, and parents.

They studied, searched and fought for ideals such as justice and individual freedom and human dignity. It is this history that carved the United States of America out of the world. It is this framework that created a people who possess the power to vote, work and speak freely in the pursuit of happiness. Charles Kenning would ask us not to let our pontiffs blind us with falsehoods, taxes, misinterpretations of the law. Unpaid bills and rewritten rules that will lead our children into an era of economic, political and social slavery.

This message was consistent with his actions. Charles B. Kenning was shot down over Germany on his 23rd mission in 1944. In the prison camp he was aware of American rights and explained the Geneva Convention to his captors. All that was left to protect the camp from him, at this point in his war experience, were frightened German youths with big guns. My father was lucky to speak German.

Like our ancestors, Charles Kenning fought for democracy and the rights of the individual. Upon leaving the prison camp, “Life Magazine” captured and published an image of the event that marked his departure. With crutches in hand, he tore down the Nazi flag. It was this image that alerted his mother, who was thousands of kilometers away: her son was alive. With the spirit intact, he returned home. Sonny-boy, as Nana would call him, would tell him that we must honor, uphold, and respect the conventions of the law and our constitution.

Charles B. Kenning graduated from Georgetown University and passed several bar exams offered on the DC Beltway shortly thereafter. The bolt that was pierced through his leg to prop up his ankle during the war did not hinder his forward momentum. It was this tenacity with which he approached his love of freedom. In life, his spirits were not hindered. In sickness and near death, he did not complain.

Charles B. Kenning was a collector. He collected cars, boats and books. Few people know that he owned every single law book the West Publishing Company ever produced. They meticulously lined up thousands of square feet of law library in our home. As a teenager, I remember learning that this was weird. Friends came to play and then came back in groups for the library tour and to buy snacks. I soon learned never to invite people into that part of the house. I didn’t want to be different; All the other houses in Pittsford were not built on foundations that reflected an underground city equipped with libraries and bomb shelters stocked with food.

In college, my sisters and I started calling this part of our house “Chuck’s-Mart.” The prices were right, after all. Anyone could find a free book or feed the entire dorm if necessary. There was no need for a blue light special at Old Farm Circle. He never noticed books or groceries missing. The dirty and hungry masses that passed through our doors welcomed this oversight.

When my father became disabled, his beloved library moved to Albany, New York, and became the best part of a student law library. He would have liked to join them in the study. After law school, he taught law at John Fisher College. He was the type of teacher who wanted students to read and actively discuss problems. However, when discussing a point with Charles Kenning, he had better get the facts straight. He was not an easy teacher.

If Professor Kenning were alive today, he would ask students to read the bills that Congress proposes. He would invite his students to actively discuss the issues. He would want precedence and contrasting positions to be justified. Professor Kenning would have been disappointed in a government and a people doing the readings from him. Congressmen, who do not read the proposed bills, have also appealed it. He was not a committed person, nor an easy man.

I can imagine Mr. Kenning saying something like; “Some advocates of rewriting and creating new laws have learned that in chaos, there are opportunities. But in true freedom, there is only the rule of law.” My father would say that the truth cannot be masked in bills and revisionist history. Our history is clear, our founders were direct, and our agenda as a people is preordained. It is our duty, our right and our privilege to live in freedom and defend the constitution. As leaders, we must hold our legislators, politicians, and families to high standards.

Charles B. Kenning did not hide the truth to gain political power, popularity, fame, or financial gain. He was an American History student. that he believed in upholding the law. He had a great love and respect for the constitution. He would ask her to hope to protect his children and future generations with the same document. He was giving in to this belief.

My sister tells of a conversation she would have with her children. I would start as a question; “Did you do your best?” If she answered “Yes,” there was more to follow “…if that’s the best you can do, you’ve done enough.” Then she would add the twist; “Now go help someone else do better.” He was unwavering and stubborn.


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