Kenneth Wayne Hart

December 13, 1939December 27, 2022
Obituary of Kenneth Wayne Hart
Kenneth Wayne Hart passed away peacefully at home on December 27, 2022. Ken was born December 13, 1939, in Ottumwa, Iowa, to James Lloyd Hart, manager of the local Woolworth’s, and Ruth Colfix Hart, a homemaker and president of the school board. Ken was a musician, theologian, university professor and administrator, and beloved husband, father and grandfather. Although born and raised in the small-town Midwest, he loved city life—particularly New York where he went to graduate school, and Dallas where he made his home for 35 years. He was an avid traveler, bridge player, story and joke teller and a passionate chef of all kinds of cuisine. He graduated from Ottumwa High School in 1958 and nearby Grinnell College in 1962. He served as a First Lieutenant in the U. S. Air Force, stationed stateside in Boston from 1962-1965, before pursuing a Master of Sacred Music Degree at Union Seminary in New York City. At Union, he met Ellen Armitage, his future wife of fifty-two years. After graduation, he took a job at Berea College in Kentucky and began a three-year courtship by mail with Ellen, who had returned to her home in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1969, he moved to Cincinnati to pursue a Doctorate of Musical Arts, specializing in organ performance and married Ellen in Christchurch on June 26, 1970. Together they moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1971 to take a joint church job at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Justin was born in 1974 in Lincoln and Daniel followed in 1976, after a move to Emporia, Kansas, for Ken to take a position in the Music Department at Emporia State University. At ESU, he was promoted to Associate Professor and then Professor, before assuming a position as the Chair of the Music Department. The Harts made numerous lifelong friends in Emporia before leaving in 1987 for Ken to take a position as the Director of the Sacred Music program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he was a tenured professor in both Meadows School of the Arts and Perkins School of Theology. Dallas was the perfect place for him, as he enjoyed all the amenities of a big city, such as a vibrant restaurant life and a lively arts, music and church music scene. Ken and Ellen were long-time members of The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration. He retired from SMU in 2005 and took a part-time job directing the choir at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. In his final decade he joined multiple bridge groups and, true to his roots as a leader and administrator, soon became the president of several of the groups at once. He was also active in, and served as the president of, the Retired Faculty Association at SMU. Ken is survived by Ellen; his sister Dorothy of Birmingham, England; Daniel and his partner Rachel Ballard of Altadena, California; Justin, his partner Stephanie Hart, and favorite granddaughter Irene, of Lubbock, Texas; as well as many nieces and nephews in Europe and the United States. A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in Ken’s honor can be made to Perkins School of Theology at SMU or to a charity of your choice. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Hart family.

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