An Apostle of Kindness: A Eulogy for Gene Kane

On behalf of the entire Kane Family, I want to thank each of you for being here today as we say goodbye to our leader, our father, and our friend, Gene Kane, or as my brother Ned so aptly named him “The Big Guy”.   Your presence here is a witness to the impact my father had on those fortunate to know him, who truly was a man larger than life.

My Father loved the line that “Behind every successful man is a surprised mother-in-law.”  In his case, there was also a great and incomparable woman, my Mom, Joan, who shared her life with my father for 56 years.  To her, we extend a special note of condolence.  We thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us the greatest gift parents can provide their children:  the example of a loving relationship.

This is a time of sadness for the Kane family.  But our grief is lessened by the abiding sense of gratitude to God which my father carried through life with him.  And we are profoundly grateful for the life of this extra-ordinary man, Gene Kane.

My father showed us that one man’s life, when motivated to do a few big things well, and countless small things with great kindness, can touch thousands of other lives.

He came from modest beginnings, but from early on, he became rich in his character. He never compromised his personal integrity.  He devoted himself to his wife Joan, with whom he raised eight children.  He respected and loved his friends and enjoyed many wonderful moments in their company. He was adored by his grandchildren, all 22 of whom affectionately called him “Pops”.  He had a contagious laugh and an unfailing optimism.

His strength of character served him well through life’s hardships, whether it was the very difficult times when his business nearly failed, or the challenges of his final illness.  He also bore the hardest cross a parent can carry, the loss of a child, my brother Jack.  Through all these, he was made strong by the loving relationship he had with his wife and by his faith that everything happens for a reason.

It is hard to sum up in a few minutes the lessons of a deeply lived life of 80 years.  But a few traits about my father stand out in a special light.

Gene Kane’s life was one of a deeply held faith in God.  On his desk he had a plaque that asked “What Have You Done With Your Life?”  He truly believed that the answer to that question is to obey the Greatest Commandment—to love God with our hearts, minds, and souls, and to love others as ourselves.

He was a man of commitment, a man of character and integrity, a man of honor, dignity, and grace.

In his business, he took the greatest joy from the friendships he made with customers and associates.  His business life was imbued with a sense of deeper purpose, that the greatest thing a businessman can do is to create jobs that give people the chance to raise their families with dignity.

My Dad was quiet.  I’m going to say it again, he was quiet.  When he did speak, people listened.  He was  a man of few words, but his words were well chosen and profound.   He taught us that your word is your bond and that the only thing in life we truly own is our reputation.

He left a lot of himself in my brothers and sisters, so in that way he will live on.  He also leaves behind his incredible accomplishments in business.  He took a struggling company of two trucks and transformed it into a nationally-recognized company.  Hundreds of notes from around the country have come to the family in these past few days.  They all mention his extra-ordinary generosity, his humility, and his goodness.

Above all else, my Father’s life was one of that special love he called kindness.  Gene Kane was an apostle of kindness; he preached kindness wherever he went.  He had the words “Be Kind” painted on the back of every Kane trailer.  And he never stopped repeating his message that “You cannot give kindness away. It always comes back to you.”

Kindness is Gene Kane’s legacy.  Practicing it is the greatest way we can honor his memory.

And now, although we have the sad task of saying goodbye, we can take comfort in seeing all the things about “The Big Guy” and his life that we can be grateful for.  I believe he would want nothing less from us.

As a final word, you all know that my Dad was a master of marketing.  So don’t be surprised in the future when you are walking down the street or out golfing, and you look into the heavens and notice that the clouds spell out “Kane Is Able.”

8 Comments

8 Responses to An Apostle of Kindness: A Eulogy for Gene Kane

  1. Bo Bartholomew says:

    Wow, the simple but profound words are very touching and I feel like I know your father now even though I have only heard stories from you over the years. Not only that, but you have your own blog. You are not only interesting but amazing. I was very moved by your kind words and I know your father would be proud of you.

    Bo

  2. John Kemmerer says:

    Mike,
    I am sorry for your loss. I remebered a bit about your father and family from what you shared when we had lunch together earlier this year. Your eulogy was inspiring and I hope I can be remembered in such a positive way by my children.
    John

  3. Robert Woody says:

    Mike,
    I put this to one side in order to have time to absorb it, and honestly, I’m blinking back tears as I write this. I wish I had known your dad, I really do. But in a way, I feel as though I do, by knowing you and your kindness — which is the greatest legacy I can think of.
    Thank you for sharing these remarks, Mike. They and the father you thank God for, will stick with me and inspire me to be a better father, husband, grandfather, businessman. Kane IS able.
    Warmest regards,
    Bob

  4. Mike Dunnam says:

    Mike:

    I was deeply saddened to hear of your loss. I am disappointed that I was not around to share my condolences with you last week. Please accept them now.

    I write this from a hotel in Taipei. When I take these long trips, they give me time to think. My thoughts always turn back to family. You really miss them when they are not nearby. Your heart felt words about your father put things in perpective for me. I will be able to go back and visit my family and am lucky enough to still have both of my parents. I think I will go call my Dad (though I think it is in the middle of the night in Florida). Perhaps we will have a conversation akin to one that you will one day have again with your father.

    All the best.

    Mike

  5. Laura downing says:

    Michael –
    Thanks for sharing these beautiful words. What a wonderful gift that your father has taught you how to be such a special father. The truest meaning of legacy.

    Lots of love.
    Laura

  6. Mariam Toulan says:

    Michael –

    Though years have passed since we have spoken, my condolences for you and your family are no less. As you say, your father’s legacy is reflected in his children and grandchildren. Your kindness and goodness is the greatest tribute to him.

    I am sending you, Dottie, the children, your mom and your entire family my condolences and prayers.

    With love,

    Mariam

  7. Gregory Guerin says:

    K.

    I met your father twice. Once, after college, I met him and several of your brothers at a beach house. I remember him as quiet and slightly bemused by us recent Georgetown grads. I could almost hear him thinking, “Lord, I hope something good comes of these kids.”

    The first time I met your father was in our earliest days at Harbin Hall. OK, so I did not exactly meet him, but I met his optimism and sense of humor. I met him through his “Kane is Able” slogan. Wordplay, cornball comedy, family name, and earnest mission statement all in three words. You had the t-shirt on, and all of your new friends had fun with that punny slogan. Then we went canoeing down the Potomac, the whole Harbin Hall gaggle, and your canoe capsized. You resurfaced, but you lost your “Kane is Able” t-shirt to the river.

    Reading the eulogy, I can’t help but think of how your father’s virtues live on through you, and I’m sure, through your siblings. The intelligence. The playful comedy. Kindness. Spirituality.

    I wish you all well in this difficult time.

    — Grisha

  8. Ana Maria & Matt McClellan says:

    (Ana) Dear Michael,
    I’m so behind with my email that I just sat down to catch up and was deeply saddened to learn that your father had died last month. I’d like to extend my deepest sympathy to you and your family, especially your mom during this time. Wow! 56 years together! What a joy, but this also makes it harder to get through the days without your friend and spouse at your side. So I’m keeping you all in my prayers, but most especially your mom. If we were there, I’d wrap you all in the biggest, tightest most heartfelt hug possible.
    The eulogy for your dad was such a loving tribute to him, however I’m convinced that he would say the better tribute lies in the lives and character of his children and family. With love and prayers, Ana Maria

    (Matt) – Michael – Having met your father once or twice back when we were in college, I was saddened to hear of his passing, and please pass my condolences along to your mother and all your family. Your eulogy spoke volumes about him and his legacy through his family, and having met your family I know there is the proof of that true legacy that lies in all of you. We’re keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers. Matt