Kenneth McLean loved taking photos, bowling, gardening, and even his lawn. What he loved most of all, however, and what was by far the most important thing in his life, was his family. Ken often reflected that he was truly blessed to have a beautiful wife and wonderful children. What is also true, however, is that they were in turn blessed to have Ken in their lives: hard-working, loving and supportive, Ken spent his life taking care of those he loved.
Kenneth came into the world on May 16, 1925, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His proud parents were Cleve and Sally (Walters) McLean. As their surnames suggest, Cleve and Sally were of Scotch and Irish descent. Ken was the youngest of three children, although sadly his sister Charlotte died when she was only ten months old. This left two boys in the family: Ken and his older brother, Don. Ken and Don both enjoyed sports, especially baseball, and would remain close throughout their entire lives. When the time came to go to school, Ken attended through the eighth grade. Although he was unable to attend the graduation ceremony due to a death in the family, Ken was always very proud of his eighth-grade diploma.
Many of Ken’s happiest memories from his teenage years were connected with motorcycles. His family happened to live near a Harley-Davidson plant, and Ken often went out riding with his two best friends. Due to their habit of riding to different custard stands throughout Milwaukee, they soon earned the nickname of “the Custard Cowboys.” As he became a more experienced biker, Ken started to travel cross-country on his motorcycle, to destinations such as Yellowstone National Park.
When the United States became involved in WWII, Ken had a strong desire to serve his country. Although he wasted no time in enlisting, Ken’s application was rejected since he was partially deaf. He was still able to help the war effort, however, through his work at Allis Chambers and A.O. Smith. He worked on the construction of the parts used to make the first atomic bomb, for which contribution he was honored with a certificate. The bomb was instrumental in bringing a bloody and drawn-out war to an end. Ken loved his country, and always stood up with his hand over his heart whenever he heard the “Star-Spangled Banner” or “America the Beautiful,” sometimes even tearing up. In more recent years, he proudly wore a flag pin in his lapel, in order to show his support for the troops defending our country.
As a young man, Ken enjoyed attending the annual Wisconsin State Fair every August. He fared particularly well at the fair of 1948, when he made the acquaintance of “fair maiden” Thecla Mamell. Thecla was visiting the fair with her sister, and she and Ken hit it off right away. That day marked the beginning of a romance which would last for more than sixty years. Ken and Thecla were married one year later, on September 17, 1949, at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Milwaukee. Happy and delighted with his bride, Ken was not the typically nervous bridegroom – in the years to come, he often said that his wedding day was the best day of his life.
Not long after the wedding, Ken got an apprenticeship in lithography, the technology used to produce most smooth, mass-produced items with print and graphics, such as posters, maps, books, newspapers, and packaging. He picked up the trade quickly, and was soon offered a job at Lithoplate. At the workplace, Ken was known for his punctuality, his attention to detail, and his steadfast work ethic. Over the years, he also worked for Mueller Color Plate, Color Trend, and For Color.
At home, Ken and Thecla were blessed by seven children: Donna, David, Gerry, Karen, Scott, Ron, and Sandy. Ken loved being a father, and made each one of his children feel like they were his favorite. He enjoyed spending time with his family, and put a lot of effort into making memories for his children. Christmas was his favorite time, when he often took family pictures, or pictures of the children with Santa Claus. Once the family got a video recorder, the kids remember that Ken always started the Christmas video by having them go outside with a chalkboard showing the current temperature. Completely unselfish, Ken’s joy at Christmas came from seeing other people’s happiness – he never wanted people to buy gifts for him, instead telling them to spend the money on themselves. The family also enjoyed frequent trips in their blue 9-passenger station-wagon, to destinations such as Battle Creek, Michigan, or Illinois, where Thecla used to live. In his free time, Ken liked to bowl, garden, and ride his motorcycle, a Harley.
Ken had more time to spend on his hobbies and with his family after his retirement, which marked the end of forty years in the lithography industry. He loved taking pictures, a hobby he learned from his mother, as well as collecting coins and noteworthy news articles. He also spent a lot of time on his lawn – nurtured with loving care, he never let anyone drive on the grass for fear of ruts. Every fall, Ken and Thecla loved to travel to northern Wisconsin, where they would enjoy the beautiful autumn colors and play at the casino. Most of all, however, he loved to spend time with his family. He liked nothing better than big family get-togethers, where he could visit with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In his later years, Ken also became more focused on his faith, participating in a weekly bible-study class led by his son, Scott. At the age of 80, Ken chose to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
In 2011, Ken was diagnosed with cancer. Despite the efforts of his doctors, his health soon diminished to the point where he had to enter hospice care. On March 10, 2012, at the age of eighty-six, Ken McLean was called home to the Lord surrounded by his beloved family.
Soft-hearted, kind and loyal, Ken was a devoted husband, a proud father and grandfather, and a true friend. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by his many friends and family members.
Ken’s family includes his wife of 62 years, Thecla (nee Mamell); his children, Donna (Jim) Willegal, David (Heidi), Gerald (Darla), Karen, Scott (Linda), Ron (Maureen) McLean, and Sandy (Paul) Anderson Bailey; his grandchildren, Kevin (Amanda) Willegal, Emily Willegal, Patrick McLean, Steven McLean, Andrew (Shyla) McLean, Brian (Laura) McLean, Heather McLean, Sara (Craig) Bierdemann, Joseph (Sarah) McLean, Eric McLean, Rachel (Michael Einstein) McLean, Garrett (Autumn) Downs, Anthony (Jennifer) McLean, Melissa (Bobby) Hill, Amanda (Greg) Smith, Daniel (Cindy) Anderson, and Brad Anderson; his great-grandchildren, Vance, Gauge, Josiah, Seth, Ethan, Mahala, Gabriel, Jordan, Caleb, Grace, Ava, Bret, Trinity, Alyssa, Hailey, Marcus, Amore, and Hunter; his brother, Donald (June) McLean; his brother-in-law, Leo Mamell; and other relatives and friends.
Visitation will be held on Thursday, March 15, at the Christian Life Center W156 N9666 Pilgrim Rd Germantown, WI, from 4:00 – 6:45 p.m. A funeral Service will follow at 7 p.m. Private interment will be at Wisconsin Memorial Park. The family has been served by Suminski LifeStory Funeral Homes. Please visit Ken’s personal memory page at lifestorynet.com, where you can learn more about his life, share a favorite memory or photo, and sign the online guestbook.