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Kriegshauser Mortuary-West Chapel

9450 Olive Blvd, St. Louis, MO

A MESSAGE FROM THE FAMILY

A celebration of Joe’s life will be held at a later time. If you would like to be notified of the date when it is set, please send your name and email address to joe.mckenna.celebration@gmail.com.
OBITUARY

Sylvester Joseph McKenna Jr.

November 8, 1931March 4, 2020
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Sylvester Joseph McKenna Jr., a St. Louis native, competitive swimmer, U.S. Navy veteran, and longtime local businessman, died March 4, 2020, of natural causes in Bountiful, Utah. He was 88.

Throughout his life, Joe was universally known as “a genuinely nice guy” and the calm one who kept a steady course when things got chaotic.

Those skills would come in handy when Joe enlisted in the Navy in the early 1950s. He served as an airman with the VS-24 Sea Control Squadron on the USS Fighting Lady and USS Right aircraft carriers off the coast of Rhode Island during the Korean War. Joe's role on these training vessels was to prepare reservist pilots for flying in combat, including smoothing the nerves of veteran pilots who realized they weren’t as young or unmarried as they were in their flying heyday.

Joe eventually received a transfer to Norfolk, Virginia, where he swam on the Navy's swim team.

Later, Joe would get his own pilot's license at now-closed Weiss Airport in Fenton, Missouri, where he rented a Cessna 150 and flew to other area airports to gain experience. He once had to land his plane at Lambert Field after trying to return to Weiss during a storm and being diverted. The Lambert control tower knew he was a novice and made sure he had an empty runway and an escort to guide him once he was on the ground.

Following Joe's Navy service, he returned to St. Louis and worked at his father's coffee importing business. The company eventually transitioned from selling coffee to packaging, particularly pet food bags, as pet food started to appear in 5- and 10-pound bags in supermarkets. Joe said his dad was the first and biggest supplier of pet food bags to Ralston Purina as a manufacturer's rep for the Benjamin C. Betner Bag Co. Joe continued working for his father in packaging and then started his own company making packaging equipment in Pacific, Missouri.

Mostly, Joe just liked being outside. He was an avid fisherman from his earliest days, particularly at his parents’ farm in Lesterville, Missouri.

Joe and his older brother, Jim, both competitive swimmers, competed for the Missouri Athletic Club and St. Louis University High School as they grew up. At SLUH, the brothers were part of a freestyle relay team that won the state championship in the mid-1940s.

Joe also loved to golf and was proud of hitting three holes in one over his lifetime, one at Sunset Country Club, one at Bellerive Country Club, and one in Florida. He could remember the smallest details of those milestones long after they happened.

Joe also encouraged his children to compete in sports. He was a founding board member of the Creve Coeur Figure Skating Club in 1972 and served as president for several years while his daughters were skaters. He also was a skating judge.

Creve Coeur's ice rink was an outdoor rink in the late 1960s. Several area skating enthusiasts had to drive to the Winter Garden rink in St. Charles for weather-proof ice time. They asked Creve Coeur Mayor Harold Dielmann to enclose his city’s more convenient rink. The skaters were tasked with showing Dielmann that they would support the rink if he did so. No matter how bad the weather during the ensuing winter, Joe made sure his children appeared to skate, including during a major snowstorm. This included swinging by their coach’s house to pick her up in the snowstorm. The skaters had to squeegee the snow off the ice before they could attempt to skate. The enclosed rink was dedicated in November 1971, and the Creve Coeur Figure Skating Club came into existence soon afterward.

Joe and fellow founding board member Gene Primm often practiced sit spins in the corner of the rink while their children skated before and after school.

Joe remained close to the skating world throughout the rest of his life, watching his grandchildren skate for years and then enjoying the sport as a spectator.

The McKenna children’s longtime skating coach was Micki Kuehne Kennedy, wife of St. Louis County Parks Director Wayne Kennedy, establishing a connection that would eventually lead to another big adventure for Joe.

Joe had some experience riding horses as a youth at Roundup Lodge camp in Buena Vista, Colorado, but his life started to revolve around barns once he married a horsewoman, Joan Randazzo, and had a horse-crazy daughter and son.

The rink at Queeny Park was built during Kennedy's tenure as parks director, and the Creve Coeur skaters had ice time there on Sundays. Wayne, also a horseman, often dropped by to say hi to his wife and the skaters. He and the McKennas frequently had conversations about the beauty of the facility and how it would make a great place to hold a horse show.

Joe, Joan, Wayne and others whom they recruited ultimately revived the old St. Louis National Charity Horse Show in 1978 at the Queeny Park rink to bring back an elegant indoor show to the area. The show drew horses from around the country, and each night was designed to be as exciting as a musical theater production. The stands were packed, and the admission fees raised thousands of dollars for diabetes research. The horse show continues to this day, though at a new venue and in a different format.

Joe and Joan never said no to helping a cause, serving on a board or organizing a fundraiser or auction. That charitable spirit continued after they moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1985.

Joe’s children always thought Joan taught Joe to dance, an activity the two loved. Late in his life, Joe revealed that he used his card game winnings in the Navy to take dance lessons at the local Arthur Murray School of Dance. He taught Joan to dance.

Joe also traveled to all corners of the country many times over as the dependable driver for family, friends, horses, and business. He followed his AAA TripTiks, listened to the radio, monitored his CB and stayed awake for those long-distance drives while everyone else in the car slept, just the way he wanted it.

Joe's parents were S. Joseph McKenna of St. Louis and Doris Catherine Auld of Cairo, Illinois. In addition to his late brother, James Frederick (Faye) McKenna, Joe had a younger sister, the late Doris (Stuart) Meyer.

Joe was married to Joan from 1959 to 1990, when she died in a car accident.

He is survived by his four children, Erin (Matthew) Krentz of Salt Lake City, Utah; Kristin (Scott) Anderson of Florence, Oregon; Joan McKenna of New Melle, Missouri; and Sylvester Joseph "Terry" McKenna III of Tucson, Arizona, plus four grandchildren – Andrew Krentz, Lisa Krentz, Brian Krentz, and Logan McKenna. He also is survived by nephews David Stephen, Daniel (Sally) Stephen, Chris (Susan) Stephen, and Jennifer (Joe) Goeke; Frederick James McKenna (Norma West), Molly McKenna (Steve Neukomm), Thomas McKenna (Karen), Dorcas McKenna (Brian Fallon), William McKenna, and Bridget McKenna; and Catherine (Jerry) Jones, Barb Ashley-Campbell, Elizabeth (Bruce) Carter, Russell (Ann) Meyer, and Patricia (Neil) Norton.

Donations may be made to Symbii Home Health and Hospice, which provided excellent care for Joe and kept him singing with a wonderful music therapist right up to the end: Symbii Home Health and Hospice: Salt Lake County, 1385 W 2200 S, Suite 201, Salt Lake City, UT 84119; phone: 801-433-0344; fax: 801-433-0075.

Burial will be private out of deference to the COVID-19 pandemic. A celebration of Joe’s life will be held at a later time. If you would like to be notified of the date when it is set, please send your name and email address to joe.mckenna.celebration@gmail.com.

Memories

Sylvester Joseph McKenna Jr.

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William Boeck

March 31, 2020

As a former President of the St. Louis ( Gateway) Figure Skating Club, Joe and I always had a friendly and cordial relationship. I watched his daughters grow and become excellent figure skaters. As a judge, I judged many of their skating tests. Joe and his efforts in bringing about the enclosed rink in Creve Coeur forever more changed the nature of figure skating in the St Louis area. I extend my personal condolences to all of the family. I will always have fond memories of the McKennas.

FROM THE FAMILY

Jim (left) and Joe McKenna as children.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna as a child.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe, Jim and Doris McKenna.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna, third from left in the second row, with his class at Lourdes.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe and Jim McKenna swimming.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna fishing.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna with two dogs. His mother said he often brought home strays.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe and Jim McKenna with swimming trophies.

FROM THE FAMILY

Swimmers Ron Johnson, Jim Blumeyer and Joe McKenna.

FROM THE FAMILY

Jim (left) and Joe McKenna as children.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna as a child.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe, Jim and Doris McKenna.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna, third from left in the second row, with his class at Lourdes.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe and Jim McKenna swimming.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna fishing.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna with two dogs. His mother said he often brought home strays.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe and Jim McKenna with swimming trophies.

FROM THE FAMILY

Swimmers Ron Johnson, Jim Blumeyer and Joe McKenna.

FROM THE FAMILY

Joe McKenna in a high school photo.