Kenneth Neal Kermes, age 87, of South Kingstown, RI, died peacefully on Sept 7, 2022, while at HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center. Ken’s favorite words to say were “thank you” and “I appreciate it” and in typical fashion those were his parting words to his family and nurses at the time of his death.

Born May 21, 1935, in Lafayette, IN, Ken was on the move living in numerous places before settling down with his family in Darien, CT. After graduating in 1953 from Darien High School, Ken left for Amherst College where he played football and was an accomplished track and field star along with being a class leader. Immediately following graduation Ken enlisted in the Navy and attended flight training school in Pensacola, FL to learn the “art” of take-offs and landings. He was commissioned as a Naval carrier pilot and assigned to the carrier U.S.S. Independence while stationed in Norfolk, VA and Quonset, RI. Ken also attended New York University for graduate school and later in his career Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management School.

During his first year of flight training, Ken married his high school sweetheart Susan Pennock in 1958. Before ending his military commitments and starting his business career, Ken and Sue first had Suzanne (Suki) and then Rob.

In 1961, Ken started a 50-year career in business and active community engagement. Ken had executive leadership positions at Chase Manhattan Bank, General Foods Corp, Monsanto Company, Lone Star Industries, Ralston Purina Company, Black & Decker and Smithkline Beecham plc. Ken’s “first retirement” occurred in 1992. Ken was also a board member of numerous public and private companies throughout his career.

In retirement, Ken and Sue settled in South Kingstown, where he started his “second career”. Ken continued his executive leadership roles with South County Hospital, the University of Rhode Island and Brown & Sharpe, always looking to find the company or organization that could benefit from his skills while never being afraid of a challenge. At every stop, Ken met people who positively shaped his life forever.

When Ken wasn’t working, he and Sue were very busy helping support numerous charitable or educational organizations. Ken was a past Board of Trustee or Board Member of St. Louis University, Goucher College, Baltimore Symphony, YMCA of Greater St. Louis, Fox Chase Cancer Center and Bradley Hospital. More importantly when someone asked Ken and Sue for support, they typically said, “how can we help” and warmly solicited others to support the cause. Among other organizations they provided the founding equity support for the South Kingstown Education Foundation. There was no place he felt more passionate about than HopeHealth Hospice Center and South County Hospital for which Ken served as a board member and Chairman. Ken and Sue were awarded honorary doctorate degrees in 2006 from the University of Rhode Island for their commitment to giving.

Ken is survived by his wife of 64 years Susan Pennock Kermes, his children Suzanne Tobin and Rob (Janet) Kermes; his grandchildren Elizabeth (Karl) Koehler, Christopher (Shelby) Tobin, RJ Kermes and Elle Kermes plus three great grandchildren Noel, Russell and Arthur. Ken’s brothers Jim and Thom survive him, and he was predeceased by his sister Jane Ann.

Ken loved to support charitable causes and encourages others to do so as well. In lieu of flowers, Ken would be most “thankful” if you considered South County Hospital (, HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center ( or the The Chris Collins Foundation, Inc. ( Chris Collins was an accomplished South Kingstown athlete, attended Amherst College and battled anxiety and depression before he died by suicide in 2018. He was an inspiration to many, and Ken loved to put energy into the good cause of supporting today’s youth.

A Celebration of Life will occur on Oct 8, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. at The Dunes Club in Narragansett, RI. For guest book and condolences,

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