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Obituaries » Kenneth M. Irish, Jr.

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July 14, 1935 - March 30, 2024

Colonel Irish will receive a military full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington Virginia. Date of service to be determined and posted at a later date. We will welcome the gathering of friends and family at a memorial which will be in Virginia in conjunction with his burial. No local memorial is planned. Ken remained a solid supporter of veterans charities, in particular the Gary Sinise Foundation. Additional support went to the Alzheimer’s Foundation in memory of his wife Margaret. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to these groups.

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On Saturday, March 30, 2024, Kenneth Maurice Irish, Jr passed away peacefully at the age of 88 years old. Ken was born July 14, 1935, to Kenneth Sr. and Irene Irish of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ken was the eldest of the family, later joined by a sister Sally and brother Larry, both preceding him in death.

Ken was a successful graduate of Western Michigan University and received his Masters’ Degree from Georgia Tech. He began his career in the US Army Signal Corps through WMU’s ROTC program and retired as a Colonel after 26 years of service. His career took him far from his Kalamazoo roots to postings in Korea, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Thailand, Vietnam, Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, and Italy where he was the commander at AFSOUTH the Southern Command of NATO. His abundance of intelligence, energy and specialized skills were deployed into his second career as a Communications Contractor and Designer. He was quite successful working in the private sector and eventually developed his own businesses, LICA Systems and KMI, Inc. Ken fully retired when he moved to Michigan in 2006 to be close to family.

Ken married Margaret Nies on September 3, 1955, and they began what they often called “their grand adventure” in the military. They created their own small infantry unit which included Kenneth III (1956), Dennis (1957), Susan (1959), Laura (1962), and Timothy (1964). Ken and Margaret were the “yin” to each other’s “yang” which made for strong structure and a great deal of fun. They both saw the military as their calling and raising children to be good citizens as their goal. Quoted at various times in newsprint stating “Our job is to create good citizens that people want in their community and that respect the rights of others.”. Together they were a force of nature.

Throughout their marriage Ken and Margaret were avid bridge players earning them the nickname of Mr. & Mrs. Schenkkan. They traveled the world chasing Master Points and were internationally ranked. They travelled extensively, taking cruises and road trips to those places not already seen, with a goal of leaving their footprints all over the world.

Ken had a lifelong passion for amateur (HAM) Radio which he absorbed from his father. He received his own call sign (K8SXH) at an early age and upon his father’s passing had his call sign (W8JVP) reassigned to him. In 1963, Ken helped set up the first HAM radio group in Thailand, starting with a single gentleman. Years later he was invited to visit, and he found the group to be quite large and thriving. He was revered as their founding father. He extended his HAM services to support the local Red Cross as well as various veterans’ programs and local events. He had a great deal of pride when his son Dennis certified for his own call sign. He and Dennis made RV trips to broadcast signals from various US National Parks.

He was preceded in death by the love of his life Margaret (2019); eldest son Kenneth M. Irish III (2011) and grandson Matthew C Clayborn (2020). His passing of congestive heart failure served to mask a broken heart due to these losses. He is survived by his remaining children and their significant others: Dennis and Nancy Irish, Susan and Anthony Clayborn, Laura Irish, and Timothy Irish and Cyndee Fortune. His children provided 13 Grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren – each of which enjoyed a special relationship with their Grampa in which countless life lessons were learned.