Ken Cessna • Former Grinnellian, TV Newscaster and Sports Personality in Corpus Christi Passes Away
ONE OF GRINNELL’S BEST, KEN CESSNA, PASSES AWAY IN TEXAS
Kenneth Dean Cessna, born and raised in Grinnell, a 1948 graduate of Grinnell High School and 1952 grad of the University of Iowa, passed away on Thursday, February 21, 2013. He has been a resident at the Alameda Oaks Nursing Facility in Corpus Cristi, Texas the past two years. Ken died from complications of a severe fall which he suffered at his home in Corpus Christi in 2011. He was 82 years old.
Ken’s father died in his early childhood and he was raised by his mother, Mildred Cessna, who died in Grinnell in 1969, and his aunt, Mary Neff. They resided in the third house south of 8th Avenue on the west side of Main Street. He loved sports and followed the sport in season. He played football at GHS, but was best known for his booming voice over the public address system calling the plays at now Turney Field in the Grinnell men’s softball league.
I saw Ken several times when he was in the nursing facility. I used to wheel him out on the patio and we would talk for an hour or so. He was always interested to talk about Grinnell. He told me about waiting for Jim Zabel to arrive at the Iowa press box one Saturday. He told Z that he was a communications major and wanted to be a broadcaster. Zabel liked what Ken said and asked him to work as his assistant during WHO Radio broadcasts in the press box at Hawkeye football games during his student days at Iowa. Upon graduation, Cess first worked for KWWL in Waterloo, then moved to continue his radio career in Austin, Minnesota.
After the job in Austin, he moved to Texas to pursue a new opportunity. He was broadcaster for 25 years and also was a sportscaster and manager at Channel 10 in Corpus Christi, Texas for many of those years. A Channel 10 news release stated that Edith Cessna was married to Ken for six years and took care of him during his stay in the nursing home. He was a pioneer in television news in Corpus Christi, coming here in the 1950’s and working through the 1960’s and 1970’s with KZTV. From 1979 to 2010, after leaving broadcasting, he was hired as a court administrator and later a jury clerk, a job he loved, with the Nueces County Courthouse where he and Edith Cessna met and where she was the only female bailiff there. She said: “He was always hiding things around the house for me to find. And hiding a little money here and there, and I go look somewhere else, like a little treasure hunt. When Ken wasn't at home, or work, he was at the Oso Golf Course, many times with his buddy C.W. Herbert.” Herbert commented: "He was a good player and one of the best putters in town. And he had a tremendous amount of confidence in himself.”
"Even at his age, he would still check the ladies out that came into the jury room. And we would tease him, now that's the best story right there." Ann Lorentzen, Nueces County Court Administrator, was among those sharing stories about Ken Cessna today. Cessna worked with Lorentzen for years. She recalls jurors who remembered watching Cessna on television, “Class. Poise. He was a good and kind man with a great sense of humor.”
"He was family here to us. He wasn't just a worker. He was family. And he'll always be in our hearts," said longtime Deputy David Garcia.
A lifelong friend and GHS grad said: “Ken was well known in Grinnell and Poweshiek County years ago and I'm sure there are still a number of people who would appreciate our passing along the information. He was a great guy who to my knowledge had no enemies. He was good to everyone he met, an interesting person and a great friend during the time I was lucky enough to be around him. I will be forever grateful to you for setting up my opportunity to talk to him a few months ago. He was an example of why growing up in Grinnell was such fun. I have many fond memories of Ken and those years.”
His old friend said: “He was a good team mate in all our sand lot sports - football- baseball, etc. He was not the most gifted athlete but he was always a good teammate - which, in my book was a lot more important. I think he, after I had graduated from GHS, lettered in football at GHS as a lineman - maybe even as center. Jack Riley, Serge Phelps and Ken all went to Parker School and were good friends from day one - The Main Street Gang. He played the tuba and sat right behind me in band where we always had a good time much to the displeasure of Mr. Behm, our director. A very blond crew cut was his persona. Yes, he and your dad, Ave, were cut from the same cloth and got along great. I had forgotten Cess had worked in Minnesota. But then anyone who was interested in sports like they were bound to hit it off.”
The friend concluded: “You hit a sensitive cord about "Lippy” and his softball broadcasting voice. I recall his (though, maybe not melodious) chant over the airways from the baseball diamond those late summer nights. When I was not at the ball park, I could hear him from my bedroom window on north Broad Street; and, even today, my audio memories brings him to life.”
There will be a memorial service scheduled for Ken Cessna at a later date in Corpus Christi.
(Written by Dave Adkins)
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