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Kenneth Charles Kay

Kenneth Charles Kay, 87, of Benld, passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

He was born in 1935 in Racine, WI to Elwood and Mary (Trione) Kay.

He grew up in East St. Louis, until his family moved to Hollywood Heights.

Kenneth graduated from Collinsville High School in 1952 and went on to attend the University of Illinois where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education.

Kenneth was drafted into the Army in 1958.  He was stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO until his early release in 1959 to teach band in Manito.

In 1964, he relocated his family to Benld to replace Louis Philippe as CUSD #7 band director.  Kenneth earned his master’s degree in 1974 from SIU in Edwardsville.  He remained as band director with CUSD #7 until his retirement in 1993.  Upon moving into the area, he joined the municipal bands playing saxophone and clarinet.  Kenneth took over directing duties of the Benld – Gillespie Municipal band in 1974, later adding Mt. Olive and then Staunton making one area band known as the Heritage Band.  He gave up directing in 2015 and then went back to his love of playing saxophone.  During his tenure at GHS, he taught hundreds of students the love of music.  He prepared students for performances, concerts, solo contests, pep band, parades, and All-district tryouts.  Kenneth also directed the pit band and played saxophone for many of CUSD #7 school musicals.  The last one being in 2017, “Back to the 80’s”, directed by his daughter.

Kenneth had many hobbies which included wine making, stamp collecting, mushroom hunting, traveling, gardening and crossword puzzles.  He liked going to used book fairs looking for old records and books.

Kenneth is survived by his wife of 62 years Marilyn (Lemons); son, Kenneth E. Kay; daughter, Leanna (John) Sawyer; grandchildren, Brendan Clark, Bradley (Hayley) Clark, Jennifer Sawyer, Emily Sawyer, Daniel Sawyer; great grandson, AJ Clark; sister, Loretta (Dominic) Giacoletto; many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Visitation was held on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023 at Kravanya Funeral Home, Benld.  Funeral services were held on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023 at Kravanya Funeral Home, Benld.  Burial was in Benld Cemetery, Benld.

Memorials are suggested to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, CUSD #7 High School Band or Gillespie United Methodist Church.

Anyone wishing to send online condolences may do so at

Kravanya Funeral Home is in charge.