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John J. McKenna, 93, passed away December 21, 2017 after a long period of declining health.
John was born on Long Island New York in April of 1924 to Alma Hunter McKenna and Frank McKenna. He lived his early life on Long Island where he and his family worked on the estates of several prominent families. This was a time when many businesses displayed “Irish Need Not Apply” signs in their windows. John was not deterred.
He was an entrepreneur at an early age, persuading his sisters to dangle their legs in the farm pond to collect leaches, which John sold to bars in New York City as prized cures for black eyes. He picked violets and made nosegays which he sold from his red wagon on the sidewalk. He waited with his flowers for the limousines that came out of the city on their way to their country homes on “the island”. One of the highlights of his life was when his hero, Babe Ruth, stepped out of a limo and bought two bouquets.
When he was older he worked at the Meadow Brook Country Club exercising polo ponies. He could gallop riding one horse and hold two more, one in each hand. This was quite an amazing feat. He also was a caddy at the local country club, strong enough to carry two bags, thereby doubling his wage.
At the beginning of WWII his father purchased a home in Dublin and moved the family from New York to New Hampshire. John attended high school where his NY accent was not appreciated by his classmates. He decided to enlist to escape the torment. He “borrowed” his deceased older brother’s birth certificate to enlist, because he was too young. John hitchhiked to Gardner, Massachusetts and joined the Navy. His father agreed to let him go if he promised to finish high school when he returned from the war. He served four years as an engineer on a crash boat off the coast of North Africa. After, John returned “state side” he kept his promise, and graduated from Peterborough High School.
Shortly after returning from the Navy, he met “the girl next door”, Alice Fairfield. They were married in August of 1949 and continued to live in the lower village until building a new home on the Upper Jaffrey Road, completed in 1956. John built the home from materials he salvaged from older houses he dismantled. He was very proud of the oversized front door which he salvaged from an old barn on the Parsons Road.
During this same time, he worked for Burt Willard who owned one of the first well drilling machines in the area. Burt retired and John bought his own drilling rig. Together with Alice they started Mckenna Well Drilling, which they operated for 50 years. In his career, John drilled thousands of artesian wells in the Monadnock area.
John and Alice loved to square dance and danced several times a week. When the children arrived, dancing continued, with sleeping infants in baskets lining the window sills of the town houses. In his youth on Long Island, John loved husking bees. Husking bees were an entertaining social event at harvest time. Square dances would commence after the corn was husked and the barn floor cleared. A few red ears of corn were placed into the pile of corn, and were prized, for they could be redeemed for a kiss. Not leaving anything to chance, John always carried a bushel of his own red ears in the back of his “Jitney”, a Model A Woody.
In addition to operating his business, John served as a Dublin selectman for many years. His first election ended in a tie vote. The rules dictated the tie should be broken by a coin toss or cutting a deck of cards. Both men agreed on cutting a deck of cards with aces low. John’s opponent cut the Ace of Hearts and John cut the King of Hearts, winning the selectman’s seat. The card cutting event was carried by local, national and international news!
John was also a director of the Peterborough Savings Bank until his retirement from the board in 1994 . He was a lifelong member or the Knights of Columbus, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, and The Cheney-Armstrong Post 5 of The American Legion.
One of his greatest joys in retirement was attending his grandchildren’s school and sporting events. He had the Irish gift of gab and regaled all the spectators with stories. He was filled with grandparent pride and loved every moment spent with grandchildren and family. Most mornings after retirement, John could be found at Noni’s Restaurant, drinking coffee, swapping stories and debating politics with a circle of close friends.
John was an avid Yankees fan and loved baseball. He never forgave the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn. He aspired to play the game but never had the opportunity as a boy. John said the hardest job he ever had was being a home plate umpire at little league games. He loved to hunt and traveled each year to New Brunswick, Canada to spend a week in the woods deer hunting. John also loved candle pin bowling and played many years on the Dublin League.
He enjoyed fishing on Lake Nubanusit with his father-in-law and family. One of his favorite fishing stories was on Labor Day, throwing out his treasured Navy anchor, only to have the rope come untied, and the anchor lost at the bottom of the lake. Exactly one year later, while pulling in the new anchor from the same favorite spot, the rope from the old Navy anchor was draped over the arm of the new anchor. The old Navy anchor was recovered! He thought it was the best thing he ever caught other than his Alice.
As his health declined, he spent many happy hours attending Monadnock Adult Day Care in Jaffrey. He looked forward to being picked up by the van and riding to Jaffrey with his friends. He enjoyed the companionship and activities sponsored by this wonderful facility. His last years at Rivermead were spent surrounded by a caring and compassionate staff. His family is truly grateful to both these facilities that added so much to the quality of his life.
John was predeceased by his parents Alma and Frank, his brother Francis, and sisters, Margaret and Rose.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years Alice, his son Francis and his wife Patricia, and his daughter Marcia. His immediate family also includes grandson Travis and great grandson Brantley, and granddaughter Sarah, her husband William and great grandson Otto. John is also survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins and their families.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Dublin Fire Company, PO Box 94, Dublin NH 03444. John’s family is so thankful to the many volunteers who made numerous trips, day and night, to help John when he needed assistance at home. Or, to Monadnock Adult Day Care, 22 North Street, Jaffrey NH 03452 , who provided respite care, stimulating activities, and companionship.
Friday, January 12, 2018
6:00 - 8:00pm (Eastern time)
Cournoyer Funeral Home & Cremation Center
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Starts at 11:00am (Eastern time)
Divine Mercy Church
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