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.”