Who Was Clayton Kenny? Carleton Place’s Pride and Joy

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I wrote a piece yesterday about the Dunlop House and why the industrial park should have the Dunlop name on it as it was agreed upon. If this isn’t another reason why– then I just don’t know.

Clayton Orten Kenny (December 21, 1928 – June 29, 2015) was a boxer from Canada, who competed for his native country at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, where he was eliminated in the second round of the Men’s Lightweight (–60 kg) division by István Juhász of Hungary. Kenny was born in Ottawa, Ontario and died in Carleton Place,

Clayton Kenny (1928-2015): Olympian had ‘dynamite in both fists’

Ottawa boxer Clayton Kenny, right, in the ring in April 1952, three months before he represented Canada at the Olympic Games in Helsinki.
Ottawa boxer Clayton Kenny, right, in the ring in April 1952, three months before he represented Canada at the Olympic Games in Helsinki.PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN KENNY.

With three sons each born a year apart, Clayton Kenny’s patience was often tested. John, the middle son, well recalls the expression on his dad’s face when the boys inevitably acted up or did something that upset him.

“When we saw that crazy look, we knew there was a storm coming and we would run. But my mother often said that if he never made it to the Olympics in boxing, he could have made it in running. And not one of the three of us could run faster than him, I can assure you of that. We got what we deserved.”

The look served Kenny especially magnificently in the ring, though, where he was Canada’s top boxer on the team the country sent to Helsinki, Finland, to compete in the 1952 Summer Olympics. He also captained Canada’s squad at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver two years later.

While his Olympic appearance was among the crowning highlights of his boxing career, Kenny was not one to brag about it. Numerous longtime friends who attended his memorial service in early July were surprised to learn of his accomplishments.

“He loved boxing, but he very rarely talked about it,” says John. “He didn’t think what he did was all that special.”

What he listed as the greatest event of his life, in fact, was meeting Helene Dunlop, his high school sweetheart and, until her death in 1989, his wife and mother of their three boys.

Ottawa boxer Clayton Kenny was just 16 when he became the Quebec Golden Gloves champion. He later represented Canada at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki.
Ottawa boxer Clayton Kenny was just 16 when he became the Quebec Golden Gloves champion. He later represented Canada at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN KENNY.

Born in 1928 in Ottawa and raised in Fisher Park, near Parkdale and Wellington, Kenny started boxing in secret at the YMCA when he was 14. He’d been seriously injured two years earlier when he was hit by a drunk driver, spending four months in the hospital, and doctors had warned against strenuous physical activity. His parents “just about hit the roof,” says John, when he finally told them he had taken up the sport. But by then the die was cast.

Two years later, he won the Quebec Golden Gloves Championship in the lightweight division. He also won many Ontario titles in his weight class.

In qualifying for the Olympics, he won three fights, all by first-round knockouts, to claim the Canadian lightweight championship. His day job at the time, following his graduation from Ottawa Technical High School, was as a draftsman with the federal public service. He was forced to take a leave without pay in order to compete at the Olympics. And while his flight and accommodations were paid for, the remaining cost of the trip — an estimated $350, or about $3,150 today — had to come from his own pocket. With corporate sponsorships then unheard of, he and fellow boxers Charlie Chase and Jimmy Saunders came up with an ingenious scheme. From their room at the Olympic Village, they took in and ironed pants and shirts — chiefly, it was reported, belonging to well-heeled U.S. athletes and officials. They earned enough to stay on in Europe for a while after the Games had ended.

The 1952 Olympics were notable for the number of boxers who went on to remarkable professional careers — Hungary’s Laszlo Papp, Swede Ingemar Johansson, Brit Peter Waterman and Americans Spider Webb and Floyd Patterson. Kenny defeated his first opponent, Denmark’s Niels Bertelsen, by TKO before being eliminated by Hungarian István Juhasz.

Outside the ring, Kenny was an avid sportsman, earning his pilot’s license and keeping a Piper float plane at the family’s Mississippi Lake cottage. He love hunting so much, John notes, that when he discovered that the trials for the 1956 Olympic Games were scheduled for hunting season, he thought long and hard about which to pursue.

It was during those trials that Kenny retired for good, after he broke his hand. Figuring he would be too old to compete in the 1960 Games, he hung up his gloves, finally got his battered nose fixed and, to keep his hand in the sport, took to refereeing matches.

He was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame, the Greater Ottawa Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame and the RA Centre Hall of Fame.

When he was admitted to the latter, he was described as possessing “dynamite in both fists.” He brought, John adds, a fierceness to his life, until the very end. He died of a heart attack on June 29, in the front yard of his Carleton Place home, while washing his truck.

“He died with his overalls and boots on,” says John. “That’s how he’d have wanted to go.”

Clayton Orten Kenny was 86. His ashes will be buried on Blueberry Hill, outside Calabogie, alongside Helene.

bdeachman@ottawacitizen.com

kenny

KENNY, Clayton Orten
December 21, 1928 – June 29, 2015
Passed suddenly at home. Beloved husband of the late Helene Anna Kenny (née Dunlop, June 1989) and dear companion of Doris Sadler. Clayton leaves his 3 sons, Jamie (Jackie), John (Leona) and Bill (Pam); his grandchildren Jordan, Katie, Ryan , Andrew, Colton, Kendra and 4 great-grandchildren. Predeceased by his twin brother Lloyd (Joan). Clayton will be missed by many friends and family members of which there are too many to mention. Clayton was a member of Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame, The Greater Ottawa Hall of Fame, The RA Hall of Fame and The Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame. He represented Canada at the 1952 Olympics placing Top 10 in the World and was named Team Captain at the 1954 Pan Am Games. Clayton was an avid outdoors man with strong family values. With his love of Green Lake, he has one more chase to run up Blueberry Mountain! Friends are invited to visit at the Pinecrest Visitation Centre, 2500 Baseline Road, on Thursday, July 9th from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. A Memorial Service will take place on Friday, July 10th at 11 a.m. in the Pinecrest Chapel. For those who wish, memorial donations can be made to the Canadian Cancer Society or the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club.
We love you Dad, Grandpa and friend.

– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/ottawacitizen/obituary.aspx?pid=175216733#sthash.ftRPubp2.dpuf

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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