July 3, 1939 – January 1, 2020
Ken was born in Dunnville, Ontario and passed away in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Ken spent his early years on the banks of the Grand River, where summer days found him swimming in the cool, clear waters of Lake Eerie, chasing dreams and wishes with boyhood friends. War was in full swing, but to youthful eyes filled with wonder, the world was a magical, rich, and colourful tapestry of imaginations there but for a boy to explore.
Explore he did.
Ken moved westward as a teen, throwing his entirety into the open prairie skies where his greatest interests were fostered, where his deep and unwavering lifelong passion for aircraft took root. Not one but to gaze, Ken crafted relationships with more informed and experienced aircraft marshalls, aerospace engineers, and pilots, further moulding his engagement with the world of airplanes.
Upon entering the Royal Canadian Air Force as a young man, Ken was well on his way to developing a sophisticated understanding of air engines. The Air Force was Ken’s tethering to a life of aeronautics, to a deep proficiency of all engines designed to soar. So enriching an experience was service that Ken reached deeper into his repertoire of plane acumen to draw forward that which would truly become his lifelong curiosity: understanding and holding true reverence for the mighty Spitfire.
To say that Ken had an appreciation of the Spitfire airplane would be an understatement and a disservice to the mastery that he developed over the course of his lifetime. His breadth of Spitfire knowledge was second-to-none; few could capture the depth and range of information that was born of his commitment and dedication to the craft. From the elliptical wing’s angle of incidence to her flight envelope, from the grace of her maneuverability to the countless ways in which this elegant and majestic plane played critical roles throughout the Second World War, Ken knew the Spitfire.
His love of aircraft came second only to his heart’s desire to embrace the joys in life. His move north saw him enter a world of adventure and humility experienced only by those who found delight and beauty in the high Arctic throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Accoutered with his camera and a passion for photographing the peoples, places, and aircraft of the far north, Ken immersed himself into the serene and contemplative existence that partners itself with solitude. His thousands of photos show a being that truly saw the expansive splendor of Arctic skies, welcoming communities, and the long, cold, deeply transformative winters of northern Canada.
His camera followed him over several decades as he traversed this exquisite and delicate globe. Always one to admire and hold high the cultures of other peoples, Ken found himself in many distant lands at the foothold of ceremony or an esoteric site of local interest, always humble, always holding space, always the kind and grounded and compassionate traveler. He had no use for the prepackaged or glossed over pseudo-experience – Ken was holding beat on the djembe, drinking cold beer in the local village, and pausing, always pausing to view the intensity of the skies and the waters, the enormity and artistry of the painted earth underfoot.
Ken had wanderlust. His happiest days were always in open air, carefree, with worn boots, engaging locals, tried-and-true stories, and the absolute love of his life, Donna. Over a fifty-year timespan, Ken and Donna crisscrossed this earth, waltzing and two-stepping their way through countless journeys and immeasurable stories of new beginnings with old friends. Though this is an abbreviated version of an individual life filled with wonder, know that above all else, Ken loved his Donna and his Donna loved Ken.
Ken’s life came to an end in the winter, as the Yukon land that welcomed him decades ago entered her winter months, her time of darkness and solitude and quiet. For this we are grateful, as we know his body to leave as it came: in harmony with the season. Born into a hot summer day, so too left his earthly body in the cool of winter. Ever aware of the moment, ever at peace doing exactly what was before him, ever calm and without expectation of the other; a departure in sync with the season is in absolute fitting with Ken’s philosophy to simply be, and be well.
A condensed narrative of an existence so perfectly completed does not do justice to his wondrous soul, nor to the family and friends that are left gutted in the wake of his forever-untimely departure. You cannot see Ken sitting alone, with no other being for hundreds of kilometers, as countless caribou graze brightly colored lichen all around him. You cannot hold his hand as he stands against the walled fortifications of Valletta, Malta, overcome with emotion at the site of the incoming Supermarine Spitfires. You cannot hear his laugh as he regales the practical jokes played on the youngsters of the RCAF. You cannot see his gaze as he stands in reverence of the beauty of a New Zealand valley, nor his joy at admiring a Polynesian ceremony. The written word can do no justice to a man whose life has been so full.
Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Son, Cousin, Uncle, Nephew, Friend, you have a very tight-knit family that knew you well. We know you are kind to a fault, generous, engaging, a dreamer, a peaceful and calm being that loved tremendously and did no harm. We know you walked gently upon this earth, in many different lands, carrying many different stories. We know you as a humble person, who took great strides to make sure others needs were met before your own. We have always known you would leave us somehow whole, as far greater for having known you and learned from you, and somehow incomplete, as your departure from your earthly body leaves us all wishing we had many more trips around the sun with you, to bask in the warmth and hear you teach your grandchildren and see you squint at the sky where your heartstrings pull. You knew not poverty of the soul, Ken, and you left this world better than when you entered it.
See you in the skies.
Ken was predeceased by his lovely and kind mother, Evelyn, his sister Marge, and his brothers Gary and Richard.
He leaves behind his dance partner, travel companion, and love of almost fifty years, Donna;
his children, Sandra Horvath (John); Marney Paradis (Yves); April Howard (Chris); Michael Jones;
his grandchildren, Kanoa Jones, Zarek Jones, Jasmine Horvath, Beatrix Howard, and Vivian Howard;
his brother Nick (Carol) and sister Shirley (Bob); countless nieces and nephews and relations that he adored, and; friends throughout the world.
Thank you to those nurses and staff at Whitehorse General Hospital who went the extra mile in Ken’s care. Thank you to Dr. Kmet for your sensitivity, compassion, and kindness in the final weeks of Ken’s life.
A service honouring Ken will be held at 1 pm on Saturday, February 1 at his beloved Yukon Transportation Museum.
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