Clarence Cooke “Keni” Kent died peacefully on Sept. 29 at home with his wife, Carole. His body just wore out after a lifetime of service and engagement. Born on June 9, 1934, in Kentfield, CA to Roger Kent and Alice Cooke Kent, Keni grew up in Kentfield, the Ojai Valley, and Washington D.C.
A superlative teacher and lifelong learner whose irrepressible curiosity inspired everyone he met. Keni was educated at a series of excellent schools; Adaline Kent School, Ojai Valley School, The Town School, Thacher School, Antioch College and Yale University where he earned a Master’s in Asian Area Studies. His dedication to service, friendship and care among the world’s most vulnerable began with a stint of service with the Quakers in Mexico while a student at Antioch.
In 1958 he married Margaret Neal Strohbehn. Keni’s work with the humanitarian aid organizations CARE and the Peace Corps took them to India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Guatemala and Costa Rica from 1958 to 1967, where his incredible linguistic skills (he spoke 3 languages fluently and and 6 more with limits) and his ability to connect with people from all walks of life were put to use making a lasting impact. Back in the U.S., Keni followed his interest in politics and solar energy, before discovering his calling as a teacher, first at Pima Community College in Tucson, AZ and then at Napa Valley College, also enjoying a semester as a volunteer, tutoring at risk ESL students at Calistoga High where he put his fluent Spanish to good use. All his students graduated! He taught generations of students, holding a special fondness for those students most alienated from the joys of learning, or shut out of higher education by the many obstacles they encountered.
In 1992 he married Carole Kelly at their home in Napa, where they built a life together at the heart of many communities: from bee-keepers and Master Gardeners to visionary early childhood educators and members of Heifer International’s local Napa group. Together they created their beloved Wombats’ Farm, filled with organic vegetables, flower gardens, an olive grove and a vineyard. They loved to travel and had the opportunity to do so extensively. They were fortunate enough to be the first exchange professors to their Sister City Launceston’s TAFE (equivalent to our Community College system) in Tasmania Australia, where they returned many times delighting in the deep friendships they had made, including falling in love with the wombat, an adorable marsupial indigenous to Australia.
Keni is survived by his wife Carole, his son Roger and daughter Eliza (Mari), his 2 sisters, Molly Schardt and Alice Stephens, 5 nephews, and 5 grandchildren: Philip and Alice Shopsis-Kent, Leif (Ashley) Weaver, Arabella and Gage Gerosa. He was predeceased by an infant daughter and a young daughter, Shannon as well as his wife’s daughter Aine Kelly. The family’s heartfelt gratitude for the incredibly loving and competent care given to Keni and Carole by cherished friends, neighbors and chosen family members Tannia and Carlos Felix.