Philip Thomas Kenny
son of Lee and Clare Kenny
Philip T. Kenny, the man for whom this Award is named, was a lifelong Omaha resident, a 44-year veteran of the Union Pacific Railroad, an active parishioner of St. Margaret Mary's parish since 1935, and a devoted family man. He attended Creighton Prep, St. Columbian's seminary in Silver Creek, New York and Cathedral High School. Born into a large Irish family (8 children) in 1930, Phil grew up during the Depression and learned early the value of faith, hard work and family bonds after his father died tragically in 1936.
Throughout his life, Phil reveled in music, and from his earliest days sang in the Cathedral and St. Margaret Mary's choirs, for countless weddings, funerals, baptisms and impromptu gatherings and as a soloist at Sunday Mass; he sang lead tenor in the Union Pacific Barbershop Quartet for 20 years, for Omaha's St. Patrick's Day parade and for many other events; his "repertoire" included standard Latin hymns (Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus), Irish Ballads (Galway Bay, Irish Eyes, Danny Boy, MacNamara's Band), railroad songs (I've been Working on the Railroad, The Railroad Comes through the middle of the House,) and others from popular Sinatra tunes to operatic arias.
Though his musical talents were primarily vocal (Phil had a sweet Irish tenor voice), he prided himself on being self-taught at the piano (credit to his sister
Rosanne) and could play "by ear" a wide selection of Beethoven sonatas, Bach and Mozart minuets and many popular and hymnal songs without ever learning to read music. Family and friends would say of Phil that, from morning to night, he had the beauty of music enriching his life and those around him; he would always have a tune in play, always have a song to sing, a lilt to whistle, a chord to strike.
On a cold day in November 2007, Phil Kenny died after a long illness, with family by his side, with his daughter holding his hand and praying the Anima Christi with him. Some would say with Don McLean that on that day, for many, the music died. Phil would say NO, and would hope this Award will help a young Prep lad keep the music alive for that young man's friends, family and faith.
By Thomas J. Kenny