"Please allow me to share a few highlights of Gene’s life.
Gene was born in on February 1st, 1932, on a farm just 1 mile west of this church. Before he was 2 years old, he and his parents welcomed Gene’s brother, Don, to the family.
For several years Gene attended the Fairview grade school, and when his family moved closer to Leonardville, he finished grade school there. He attended Leonardville High School and graduated in 1950.
Gene was drafted in 1952. When he was processed into the military, Gene was asked if he wanted to go into the Army or the Marine Corps. Gene said, “The Army!” – and they put him into the Marine Corps! The Marines asked Private Renner what training or experience he had. Gene told them he had grown up on a farm, so they knew he could do just about anything they asked him to do. They made him a mechanic, and he did his best to keep military vehicles running.
After Basic Training, Gene served for a year in Hawaii and then took leave to come back to marry his high school sweetheart, Dolores Beck – on July 19, 1953. After their wedding, Dolores went with Gene to his new duty station in California, and they lived in Santa Ana. When Gene finished his 2-year military obligation, he & Dolores returned to Kansas and made their home in Leonardville.
God blessed their union with 4 children – Rick, Jeanie, Bob, and Elaine. They have 11 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren, 4 step grandchildren, and 2 step great grandchildren. Most of the family members – representing 4 generations! – worshiped here at Fairview on Feb. 6, the day after Dolores’s 80th birthday and 5 days after Gene’s 79th.
The family loved Gene as a wonderful brother, husband, Dad, Granddad, and great grandfather. After playing sports himself as a boy and young man, once Gene & Dolores had children, Gene coached, managed, and umpired countless athletic events. From generation to generation, he enjoyed playing with the children – teaching games to them and giving them rides on the golf cart or pulling them in a red wagon. Gene & Dolores modeled their faith to their offspring, and it wasn’t unusual to have 4 generations of Renner relations at a Fairview church service.
Most of us have enjoyed something that Gene cooked or served – at his home, a community center, school, or church. He preferred high flames on the grill, and some people will tell you that if it wasn’t “burned”, Gene didn’t think it was done. He loved barbeque sauce – on more than just meat! Occasionally, when somebody served something to Gene, he’d say: “This is good ... but it’d sure be better with barbeque sauce!”
In recent years, Gene served as the mayor of Leonardville – not because he campaigned for office, but because the guys with whom Gene drank coffee with planned a write-in campaign to elect Gene. Voters at Leonardville knew about the plan to write Gene Renner’s name on the ballot ... everybody except 1. The only one who apparently didn’t know about it in advance was Gene himself!
Gene was a member of the American Legion, and for many years, as Memorial Day approached, Gene planted a small U.S. flag on the graves of Veterans in several area cemeteries. One of my own fondest memories of Gene is riding with him a few days before Memorial Day 2009 and watching him honor Veterans by placing our national colors on their graves.
Gene was also a member of the Lions Club, the Leonardville Pride organization, and the Men’s Coffee group that meets each Wednesday at the Riley Presbyterian Church. He helped to deliver meals to shut-ins, and many people in Leonardville could count on Gene to blade the snow from their driveways.
When I led the Sunday afternoon service at the Leonardville Nursing Home, several times a year, Dolores & Gene were often there to help bring the residents from their rooms to the chapel, to visit with them, and to join them for the worship service.
Wherever Gene went, he was a friend who would share his joy for life. When Dolores & Gene went shopping, it was he who pushed the shopping cart. When Dolores wanted to add something to the cart, she’d often have to search for Gene, because instead of keeping up with Dolores, he’d stop to chat with an acquaintance or to befriend a stranger.
We’ll always remember Gene’s good sense of humor, and I hope you’ll share the many ways that Gene put a smile on your face or a laugh in your heart. His good humor didn’t falter even last Sunday, when Gene knew he wasn’t feeling well. Just minutes before his heart attack, Gene was teasing his grandsons Josh and Rusty.
During his last week on Earth, Gene was having the time of his life with some family members and friends and being a friend to previous strangers on the cruise ship. Gene lived life to the fullest, blessing people with his love – right to the end!
Words from his Grandson: comments by Josh Reasoner
Gene Renner. To some of us that meant Grandpa, or Dad, husband, friend, or just a stranger who said “Hi!” in passing. He meant something different to all of us, and each of you meant something to him.
Always wearing that ornery grin, he would give the shirt off his back to a complete stranger as if that person were family. He was an extraordinary man who gave so much and asked for so little in return – the kind of guy who would walk into a room of strangers and come out with friends, often knowing more about them than they knew about themselves.
Grandpa’s list of achievements and good deeds are a mile long, and most of the rest can be summed up in two words – ornery and loving.
Even though he has passed, his spirit is very much alive and carries on in all of us today. I see a little bit of Gene everywhere I look – in his family and friends, and all the others he has touched along the way.
Now I’d like to ask something of all of you. In honor of Gene, and yourselves: do something for someone and expect nothing in return, lend a hand instead of watching, turn a stranger into a friend, and remember that Gene is smiling down upon you."
I keep thinking of him NOW, when I hear about the pain and tragedy in Japan and the cold and thoughtless comments from SO MANY people. It seems it is more from the youth of our country, who don't have a bit of compassion, not an ounce of charity, or a thought or care of what these poor folks are trying to deal with. We are raising a generation of kids who think "What is in it for me?" It is very sad! Makes me cry.... We need more Gene's in this world.
I wanna live MY life, so when I pass on, folks will say: She did something for someone and expected nothing in return, she lent a hand instead of just watching, and she turned a stranger into a friend!
THAT IS A LIFE WELL LIVED!
I miss you Uncle Gene! ;(