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Let the memory of Ken

be with us forever.

April 27, 1943 - March 3, 2019


Ken Marion was a country boy.  He grew up on the family farm--in a house that was originally a log cabin--with his parents, a sister, Becky, a brother, Tony, and their paternal grandmother and aunt.  As I understand it, the grandparents were a responsible, hard-working lot. Some must also have had a knack for orderly detail, as four generations of the menfolk sorted and carried the mail to patrons along the same route. First Grandfather, Andrew, then Uncle Roy, Brother Tony and finally Ken traversed very rural sections along the VA-TN border. (Remember that rural free delivery of the mail was a lifeline to the outside world for pre-electronic Appalachians.) From these experiences Ken learned the joys of rural living, the necessity for physical labor, the value of family life, and a devotion to history and geography.

In summer Ken’s family visited his maternal grandparents in west TN where they got into all kinds of good country fun with his first cousins, Linda, Lydia, and Annette. Their grandmother, Gussy, played many instruments as she was the school music teacher in the small town of Decaturville.  Besides swimming and watermelon, Lydia remembers when Papa Tate, Uncle Bill and Gussy played together as a great deal of fun.

All of these melodies played through the symphony of Ken’s life. Like his father, brother, and sister he treasured history and honored traditional methods of gardening and food preparation. Like his mother and grandmother he loved music, a cold beer at the end of a hot day, a good joke, and shared laughter.  Oh yes, sports:  as a high school basketball star, Ken learned the importance of fitness.   In his 75th year he could sprint from “the hollar” to Akard Lane in 13 minutes carrying a load.  

A conscientious student, Ken graduated from Washington and Lee University, then Syracuse University for his graduate work. He never stopped learning, as he applied for and was granted a number of pre-doctoral fellowships.  Of particular interest to him was cultural history. He traveled through Turkey, North Africa, Greece, Egypt and Europe visiting as many sites of the great civilizations as possible. After his retirement he and Minta shared a travel adventure by “woofing” on farms is Greece and Turkey.

This love of learning spilled easily over into teaching whether in the Peace Corps in Turkey, public schools in Syracuse or the Bahamas, for new employees of the postal service, or at VI and Steed College here in this area.  He was never far from a book or a map and shared his extensive library with all interested guests.

A devotee of the minimalist philosophers like Henry David Thoreau and Wendell Berry, and conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt and Beatrix Potter, he became interested in the idea of setting aside parcels of land in order to protect the natural environment.  His brother, Tony found the perfect tract in Scott County, Va, which Ken purchased from T.D. and Lillian Clendenin in 1973. This family, along with other residents of Akard Lane--Millers, Pectals, Whitakers, and Naporas--became valued neighbors. Wortroot Land Trust became a reality with the support of a number of true and dear friends, many of whom were welcomed for sojourns as they pondered new paths to take in their lives.

Through the years there have been a number of environmental studies of the Racoon Branch watershed, hallmark of the Wortroot preserve.  All point to the same conclusion: many treasures are sheltered here.  Visitors can realize their connection to the beauty of creation, experience peaceful contemplation, and wander through forests discovering fascinating species like a treasure hunt.

These same interests led Ken to serve on the Board of Directors for Steele Creek Park in Bristol, TN.  He mapped the existing trails and his sons helped develop some new trails. He attended Master Gardener courses, and became a member of SAPS, Southern Appalachian Plant Society.  In his later years he devoted himself to gardening, and the study of native flora and fauna, particularly, birds.

Ken was a devoted father to Roan, Parks, and Minta and father-in-law to Shawna and Alexia. He was excited to become a grandfather to Trillium (daughter of Roan and Shawna) and Xenia (daughter of Parks and Alexia).  He welcomed numerous high school exchange students into the family unit: Pablo, Severin, Sedat, Jeremiah, Charlotte and Perrine, Magda and Rebekka.  He was also a loyal friend to those with his own capabilities and to those in need of support and guidance. Ken was unafraid to explore the world, embrace complexity, try new ideas, and love deeply. He set an example for us to follow.

You may have had an experience with this gentle, wise, and gifted person we were so fortunate to know. Please take a few minutes to share your memories on this web site, on paper, or in person at the Celebration of Life Gathering on Saturday, June 1st.

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