Bernard Joseph Keninger

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bernard Joseph Keninger, son of Edward Joseph and Stasia Maude Esser Keninger, was born June 24, 1922, in Ackley, Iowa, where he spent his childhood. After graduating from High School in 1940, he attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. With the outbreak of WWII he entered the U.S. Navy, was commissioned as an officer, and served with the Seabees.

Bernie married Vivolyn Toomsen on May 16, 1944, and after the war they lived in Ackley while Bernie completed his education and graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Architectural Engineering in 1950. That same year Bernie and Viv moved to Spencer to begin his architectural career and over the years he designed many of the schools, churches and other public buildings that are familiar to residents of northwest Iowa including local landmarks such as Sacred Heart Church, Hope Reformed Church, the YMCA, and Johnson School. A long time member of the American Institute of Architects, Bernie's professional expertise earned him state and national recognition throughout his career, and for many years he served on state and national architectural licensing boards which set the criteria and designed exams for certifying architects.

In 1992, Bernie was named Spencer's Citizen of the Year in recognition of his many contributions to the community. He was honored for his service as a longtime member of the Spencer Area Arts Council, the Parker Museum Board, the Spencer Public Library Board, as well as his involvement with Cub and Boy Scouts and the countless hours he spent as a volunteer with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Bernie was also past president of the Hy-Noon Kiwanis club and Toastmasters.

Bernie was a dedicated member of Sacred Heart Catholic Parish from 1950 until recent years when his illness interfered. But in his healthier years he often attended daily Mass and served his parish in numerous ways as a lector, communion distributor and Eucharistic minister to shut-ins. He was a member of the Holy Name Society, and Knights of Columbus, and could always be counted on to give generously to his parish with his time and energy. He was also active in the Sioux City Diocese serving on the Liturgical Committee and the Committee for Environment and Art in Worship.

From childhood Bernie had a flair for drawing and his interest in art continued throughout his life. He loved to visit art museums with members of his family and this instilled a similar appreciation for art in his children. Bernie had an inquiring mind and enjoyed engaging people in conversation about current affairs, art, and social issues. Bernie also loved to travel and in recent years he and Viv enjoyed reminiscing about the wonderful trips they took to various countries including South America and Russia as well as many parts of the United States.

Bernie died at the age of 88 at St. Luke's Lutheran home in Spencer, Iowa, on June 16, 2011, with Viv at his side. He was preceded in death by his parents, two sisters, Evelyn Keninger and Rita Reding, a daughter-in-law, Mary Jane Keninger, one granddaughter, Marie Keninger, and a great-grandson, Joseph Reha.

Bernie often remarked that he had been "richly blessed" by his family and among those who will miss him dearly are his wife, Vivolyn of Spencer, and his children and their spouses: Patricia and Dennis Day of Oregon, Wisconsin, Raymond and Sue Seedorff Keninger of Ackley, Iowa, Mary and Mike Ryan of Ottumwa, Iowa, Edward of Newton, Iowa, Marti and Steve Bomgaars of Spencer, Iowa, and John of Des Moines, Iowa. Bernie was especially proud of his 19 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren, and they will always cherish their memories of their "Grandpa Bernie" and the time they spent with him playing cribbage, fishing, or working on special projects together.

The Funeral Mass will be held at Sacred Heart Church in Spencer, Iowa, on Monday, June 20th, at 11:00 am. Visitation will be at Sacred Heart Church on Sunday, June 19th, from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. The vigil will be held there at 4:30 and family will be present from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. The family requests that memorial gifts be made to Arts On Grand or Sacred Heart Church.

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