Trying to Net a Will-o’-the-Wisp

Interviews with Kennard Balme

Submitted by: Suzanne S. Barnhill

If you read Ken’s report of his interview with Pensters president Mavis Jarrell, you know that Ken has a whimsical turn of mind and a metaphorical turn of phrase. These qualities are also evident in his poetry, which is succinct and allusive, and in his blog posts, many of which are downright cryptic.

As an interview subject, Ken proved elusive, providing one-word answers to questions I thought would elicit at least a paragraph. After striking out via email, I tackled him by phone and was able to pin down a few facts.

Kennard Balme
Kennard Balme

Though born in Philadelphia, Ken has lived in quite a few places: his Facebook page lists 15 cities (in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia) between Philadelphia and Daphne, his current hometown. In part this was the result of his father’s career as an engineer specializing in mechanical handling systems, including designing large distribution centers for the U.S. Postal Service.

Ken attended high school in Cincinnati and then got a B.S. in business management from Ohio State University in 1964. After a brief stint with Virginia Power & Electric, he joined Carrier Air Conditioning Company (acquired by United Technologies Corporation in 1979) and worked there for 37 years. When he retired from UTC, Ken was living in St. Augustine, Florida, where he became a librarian assistant at the St. Johns County Public Library for six years. During this period, he also studied environmental anthropology at the University of Wales Lampeter.

Along the way, Ken had married and had a son and three daughters. Currently Ken is married to Penny Hollinghead Taylor, a Mobile native. When Ken traveled to the Eastern Shore in the ’60s, he thought this area would be a great place to retire, and so his wish came true.

As a former librarian, Ken visited the Daphne Public Library to inquire about becoming a volunteer. He was told that the organization that really needed volunteers was the Old Methodist Church Museum of Daphne. Well prepared by his Carrier experience as a writer, editor, and manager, Ken jumped in with both feet and became the president of the museum. He created a handbook for docents, published by, and, when that went out of print, created an expanded version available as a Kindle book.

Ken has also revived his interest in photography by joining the Eastern Shore Camera Club and, through Pensters, hopes to be inspired to work on his writing, especially by participating in the monthly contests. He’s also considering writing an autobiography, feeling a need to leave a legacy for his children and his four grandsons and four granddaughters.

Something most of his fellow Pensters might not know (but might not be surprised to learn) about Ken is that he had a brief career as a stand-up comic, under the stage name “Kenny B.” He says, “I kept my amateur status by never getting paid.”