Kenneth (Ken) R. Anderson, 89, passed away on August 9 in Rancho Santa Margarita, California after a brief illness. Born in Mason City Iowa in 1928, he enlisted in the Navy immediately after high school graduation. Ken proudly attended Purdue University on a GI Bill scholarship where he earned a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1955. He had a successful career first as an engineer with GE, then as a senior executive, and finally retiring as the CEO for a large telecommunications equipment manufacturer. During his years at GE, Ken managed many seminal projects, including the radar that helped launched John Glenn into orbit, Apollo launch control systems, and the first commercial computer graphics presentation system – the forerunner for PowerPoint. An avid Great Lakes sailor, his fellow boat owners were drawn to his energy, effusive personality and legendary skills with a tool box. On retirement at age 61, Ken moved to Hilton Head Island, but not in the normal way. He sailed his boat with his wife Phyllis from Chicago through the St. Lawrence Seaway and down the Intracoastal Waterway, arriving in 1989 just ahead of a major hurricane!
Ken and Phyllis found Hilton Head to be a vibrant place where they could make a difference. He was active on the board of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and hosted many competitors for the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. He served as president of the Hilton Head Navy League Council and was instrumental in commissioning the USS Port Royal. However, his time and talents spent with Volunteers in Medicine and the Boys & Girls Club of Hilton Head Island were arguably his most important contributions to the community. Working with Dr. Jack McConnell, founder of Volunteers in Medicine, Ken first wrote the mission statement and then provided the necessary structure and planning tools required to transform the concept of a free medical clinic on Hilton Head Island from just an idea into currently eighty-eight functioning clinics across twenty-eight states. When the Boys & Girls Club launched a capital campaign to build and outfit a new home, Ken was the volunteer on-site construction supervisor, space planner and procurement manager, carefully ensuring that the money was spent wisely and for the best possible long-term interests of the kids. As one board member recently said, “We would have never gotten this place built without Ken.”
Ken was well known for his ability to fix things and make stuff. His “Toy Shop” produced pendulum clocks, furniture, baby cradles, toy boxes as well as props, costumes and trophies for all sorts of fundraising events. His grandchildren’s Christmas money was hidden in gadgets he devilishly designed to confound them and often accompanied by a clever poem.
Ken will be profoundly missed by Phyllis, his wife of sixty-four years and his five children: Susan Welch (Brian), Barbara Carter, Nancy Rouse (William), David Anderson (Melissa), Richard Anderson (Emily), nine grandchildren and one great grandchild all of whom survive him. His parents and brother, Robert, preceded him in death.
Memorial services will be held on September 30 at 10:00 am at St. Francis by the Sea, Hilton Head. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to Volunteers in Medicine, P.O. Box 23858, Hilton Head, SC 29925 or the Boys & Girls Club of Hilton Head Island, P.O. Box 22267, Hilton Head, SC 29925.
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