Kenny’s Last Days

January 22, 2015 and following
Posted here March 11, 2022

Wendi’s oldest brother, Kenny, was serving a life sentence for a 1981 murder and was at Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin; he had been moved to several different institutions over the years, including one in Tennessee. Though he did not commit the murder himself, he gave up his weapon to the man who did, only a short while later; under Wisconsin law, this made him guilty.

Wendi and I visited him on January 22, 2015, not having seen him since the 1980s. By now, Kenny was suffering from cancer and was declining; they would soon grant him a compassionate release, and he would need a place to live out his last days.

On January 30, a local parole officer came to visit and inspect our home. He was a younger man and seemed quite pleasant. He said this was his first inspection of this sort. “Most of the men I deal with are drug dealers and gang bangers,” he said. Cleanliness was not the main issue, he said, but just that we could provide a place to live for Kenny. He asked whether we owned or rented the home, and he was relieved when we told him we owned it. “Many landlords are leery about having a convicted criminal in their rental properties.” So far, he told us, it looked like there should be no problem with Kenny staying here.

Kenny was released on February 10, and we brought him home that morning.

We made a day trip to Green Bay with Kenny on Saturday, February 28, to visit family and friends; this was his last trip. His longtime friend, Randy Kientop, gave him a large chub of venison sausage, which we enjoyed at home later.

Kenny fit in with us very well. We spent long hours talking with him, or more properly, listening to him, as he shared memories of his past, most of which were quite colorful. He also enjoyed good food and developed quite a sweet tooth toward the end. He loved my Kharlie M Special cappuccinos; check out this entry from our Family Journal:

Friday, March 6, 2015

Up 8:44 am. ~ Strangely, Kenny was the one to ask for a Kharlie M Special this morning. “Are you making Kharlies?” he asked. “If you are, could you put it in this cup so I can drink it with a straw?”

As Kenny’s health worsened, he became less and less mobile, but he got out as often as he could. He went to church with me on March 15, when Wendi was sick and had to stay home.

Kenny was in the hospital from March 20 until March 27, when he was released to come home on hospice. He suffered from small cell lung cancer as the result of smoking for years.

Kenny enjoyed good food and sweets during his final days; he bought us three quarts of Culver’s frozen custard and also loved frozen yogurt. Our neighbor, Kayla, brought over a sweet potato pie, which he enjoyed. In addition, he loved music; he enjoyed my “Umm…” album. He remained in good spirits for the most part, despite his pain and suffering.

Two of Kenny’s siblings, Rose and Ralph, drove down from Green Bay to visit him on April 11, along with Rose’s daughter, Kara, and her boyfriend. Patrick, another brother, came with his wife, Jessica, to see Kenny on April 14.

Kenny passed away at our house at about 7 am on April 15.

Death Notice in the Janesville Gazette

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kenneth Jackson Phillips Jr., 67, Janesville, died Wednesday at home. Services will be held at a later date in Green Bay. Henke-Clarson Funeral Home, Janesville, is assisting the family.