Dolores C. (Kit) Kenyon of Westwood and Chilmark, wife of Edward T. Kenyon, died peacefully on Jan. 21 at Clark House in Westwood, and was thus released from the strange limbo of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 84. She had devoted her life to her family and the career she loved: nursing.
Kit was born on May 20, 1930 in Newark, N.J., to Nicholas and Agnes Cetrule. Raised in South Orange, N.J., she graduated from Columbia High School in 1948.
After graduating from the nursing program at Skidmore College in June of 1952, she moved to New York city, and began her first nursing job on the Lower East Side at New York Hospital. In February of 1953 she met her neighbor, Tip Kenyon, at a party in their apartment building. Within months they decided to marry during a walk in the rain down Fifth avenue. They were married on July 11, 1953.
As Tip was a lifelong summer resident of Martha’s Vineyard, they chose a more exotic destination for their honeymoon and spent it on Nantucket. On the return trip, their steamer made its regular stop at Oak Bluffs, and Kit had her first visit to the Island. Chilmark was to be her summer home for the next four decades.
She accompanied Tip to Washington, D.C., in February of 1954, after Tip’s completion of law school and his entering into the Army. In the capital, Tip went to work at Walter Reed Hospital and Kit volunteered as a visiting nurse. Their first son, David, was born on Halloween of that year.
By 1956 the couple was living in Tip’s hometown of Summit, N.J., where Tip entered the practice of law and Kit began to raise her boys. Their second son, James, was born four days after the 4th of July in 1956, followed by Jonathan on Labor Day in 1957 and Theodore on Ground Hog Day in 1961. Kit loved the holidays.
Kit raised her boys in a remarkably effective manner, bringing a nurse’s no-nonsense approach to the job — hockey mom, home manager and more — she was the best a mother could be.
During these years she helped establish the Summit First Aid Squad and was one of its original volunteers, often racing from the dinner table when called to staff the emergency ambulance. Later she returned to work at Overlook Hospital in the emergency room. She also acted as an advisor on health issues to local teenage girls. The boys were both proud and befuddled to hear, “Hey, I saw your mom at the clinic today.”
In time her focus became the care of children afflicted with cancer. She was instrumental in the establishment of The Valerie Center at Overlook Hospital in Summit, the first hospital-based pediatric oncology clinic in New Jersey. As the boys grew up and moved out, she returned to graduate school, commuting to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and sleeping on her brother in
law Stan’s couch while she completed her master’s in nursing, majoring in pediatric oncology. From that time forward, she served as a nurse practitioner at the Valerie Center until her retirement in 1995.
She and Tip made the Vineyard their full-time home in 1997 and spent the next 10 years living on Abel’s Hill in Chilmark. In 2007 they moved to Fox Hill Village in Westwood.
On July 11, 2013, Kit and Tip, joined by many family members, observed their 60th wedding anniversary.
Kit leaves her husband Edward T. Kenyon, sons David Kenyon and wife Jone, James Kenyon and wife Susan, Jonathan Kenyon and wife Ceci, and Theodore (Ted) Kenyon. In addition, she leaves her nine grandchildren: Julia, Henry, Kelly, Sam, William, Mary, Martha, Charlie and Robby.
A memorial service will be held May 31 at 3 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, 322 Eighth avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10001, or at alzfdn.org.