Yale University

In Memoriam

Roger Kenna

Roger Kenna matriculated with the Class of 1964 and graduated with the Class of 1965, with which he chose to become affiliated. He died in an automobile accident on July 22, 1975 in Brandon, Vermont, where he lived.

John Wylie '64 wrote the following remembrance of Roger.

The first time I met Roger was as one of four roommates in a tiny, noisy, iron steerage room deep in the bowels of the Queen Elizabeth on the way to England. Jim Cohen was also jammed into that room. We were all exhilarated to be on our way to spend an adventurous year as part of the English Speaking Union student exchange program. Martin Padley, Keith Huffman, and Toby Hubbard were also along.

The next time I ran across Roger was our second year at Yale. He placed a small, cryptic ad in the Yale Daily News about going parachuting. It struck a wild nerve in me at the time and I called him up. Without going into details, he said, "I'll pick you up at 4:30 in front of Davenport. We have to get an early start." So, at the appointed time — it was still dark — up roars dashing Roger in a snazzy little convertible sports car! I jump in and we head down to the New Haven Airport (which wasn't much) and climb into his Piper Cub. Roger was all business behind those controls and I had complete confidence in him as we took off. "Where are we going Roger?" "Orange, Massachusetts. They have a school up there." It took something less than an hour and the next thing I know, we are being lectured to by a sadistically ironic Frenchman with a thick accent who ends his lecture be saying, "Eef you do not pool ze rhip cohrd, yourre descent weel be rrhapidly tearminated by ze ghround!"

So, up Roger and I go into one of their planes and damned if we didn't both jump out: terror, followed by being blown around like a rag doll, and then — puff — all is quiet and peaceful with a gorgeous dawn view of the Berkshires in full autumn splendor. We both did it again.

In his plane on the way back, we hear a loud ping on the wing. "What the hell was that!" Without saying a word, Roger scares the bejesus out of me by suddenly peeling the plane down into a dive. I am hysterically pleading with him. He says he thinks someone is shooting at us! "Roger, LET'S GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!" He relents, and we land back in New Haven. Sure enough, in the wing is a clean little hole. Roger thought it was a .22. "Probably a kid."

Roger drives me back for an 11 o'clock lecture (J. Morton Blum). As I slide into my seat a little late, the guy next to me snickers and says, "Overslept, huh?" I look at him for a moment, and finally say, "Yea, overslept."

The next time I saw Roger was in 1969 when I was up in New Haven interviewing for an internship at Grace NH Hospital. By sheer chance I ran into him on Chapel St. and arranged to have lunch at My Brother's Place. As we sat down together, he started to weep out of the blue while apologizing for it and encouraging me to just ignore it — "It doesn't mean anything" I remember him saying. And we reminisced about England and the parachuting experience. He would periodically start crying, but he had put me at ease, just like he had in the plane years before, and had convinced me that, indeed, it didn't mean anything. And, for that hour at MBP, it truly didn't.

After lunch, I immediately called up his wife, Constance, who told me about the tragic automobile accident resulting in traumatic brain injury leading to his emotional "incontinence." On the way home I remember wishing, as I do now, that I had thanked him for giving me one of the most memorable experiences in my life.