Kerry Eugene Taheny (Dad), nicknamed ‘Jed’ by his army mates, passed away suddenly only 68 years old on 9 February, 2017. Dad impacted almost everybody he met and over 600 people farewelled Kerry last Wednesday (15 February) at his local church in Henley Beach, Adelaide.
Kerry sending Christmas greetings from Vietnam back to his family and friends in Australia
Dad had a challenging start, growing up the oldest of 12 children on southern Yorke Peninsula and serving in the Vietnam War.
Working for the Department of Marine and Harbours on South Australia’s West Coast, Kerry met Brenda. They later married and had four children: Shannon, Joseph, Liam and Anna. Dad’s middle years were difficult, dealing with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Kerry loved feeling productive and worked hard. His enforced retirement at age 48 took adjusting to.
Retirement allowed Kerry to volunteer more. Already a Legatee assisting war widows for Legacy, Dad also delivered Meals on Wheels and began LAP mentoring students at Star of the Sea School. In addition, Kerry informally volunteered, assisting newly-arrived refugees settle into the community, counselling other Vietnam veterans and performing odd jobs for friends, family and neighbours.
Dad had a special bond with his veteran mates and they were his second family.
Kerry’s many interests included gardening, watching and playing sport, his chooks (chickens), sustainability, building and fixing stuff, history, church and people. Dad took great pride when he played indoor cricket together with his son Liam and grandson Breandan last year at age 68. His passions for gardening, sustainability and people collided at Star of the Sea where he supported the Eco Warriors programme, introducing many students to their first compost bin and earthworm farm.
Dad’s influence and standing became apparent after his sudden illness and passing. Star of the Sea teachers delivered meals to Mum, relatives donated food and many people sent cards, messages and flowers. A year three student wrote the following letter on A3 paper, accompanied by drawings of chickens:
I am going to miss you very much. I will miss all of the good times we had in the garden. I miss looking for slaters that we fed to the chickens. I remember one year when we found thousands of them. I will miss our talks about the garden. I will miss your smiles and the way they made me feel better. I hope you have the best time in heaven with God and his family. I will always remember you.
Dad was loved so much by the Star of the Sea community, the school closed the day of the funeral to allow all staff to attend. Many past and present students also attended, giving an age profile not often seen at a 68 year old’s funeral.
The Sunday after Kerry’s passing, grandson Breandan’s baseball team wore black armbands out of respect for his grandpop.
Dad didn’t seek fame and had a genuine interest in doing good and helping others. Several veterans, relatives and friends recalled chats with Kerry that lifted and inspired them when they felt down or faced trouble in their lives.
A teacher from the country called Kerry his Adelaide Dad and a distant relative referred to him as her adopted Australian Grandad.
The builder renovating a neighbour’s house was in tears talking about Dad even though they only met eight months earlier. The two chatted most mornings and got on very well.
Daughter Anna, brother Damien and school teacher Toby eulogised wonderfully at Kerry’s funeral, giving different insights to his life. Dad lived a unique life and people expressed surprise at facets of Kerry they previously didn’t know.
Many people travelled from around Australia to farewell Kerry. As often occurs, friends and family reunited at the funeral, including Dad’s mother and eleven siblings.
Video from Kerry’s funeral featuring images of his life set to the music of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (as performed by KD Lang)
I flew back from South America after hearing of Kerry’s sudden illness. I knew Dad would be proud of my travels. He loved Turkey’s history and culture when Mum and Dad visited me there and I was glad to show them around Syria prior to the conflict.
Dad’s single biggest influence on me was when he convinced me to change my mind and accompany his sister Ronnie on her 1999 European concert tour. The trip had some uncertainty and a few days before I was due to fly to London I decided I didn’t want to go. Dad explained it was a great opportunity and he wished he could go. That trip changed my life completely.
After passing, Dad is still helping others. His corneas were used to restore sight to two women.
Thank you Dad.