Our family lost one of our most beloved senior members this past week. Richard Kimball Penland, known as Kim, crossed over to join family and friends February 3, 2021. He is survived by his wife of 64 years: Jo Alison Gibb Penland of Accomac; four children: Ellen, Nancy, Bruce, and Carrie; nine grandchildren: Kyle and Jeanne Sullivan, Danielle, Chris, and Alison Jenster, Bronwyn and Gillian Earthman, and Allie and Jordan Penland; a one year old grandchild: Emmet; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Kim was predeceased by his siblings and parents from Jacksonville, FL and a foster son from Japan.
It’s a challenge for any family to do justice to a life well lived and his is no exception. His was a kind and gentle soul tempered by privation, mindful work, and grace imbued by wise souls too numerous to mention. Born October 5th, 1932 in Gainesville, Florida to Robert and Rhetta Penland, he was the youngest of four. Mistaken for stillborn, his listless body murmured to life in a box under his mother’s bed. The smallest and youngest grew to become a man in all the best ways. A Husband. A Father. A Friend. And to the end A Marine. In the words of a good friend, “He always saw the best in people and made you feel good about yourself.”
Mom says it was great to be married to him. They honored and cared for one another ‘till death do us part.’ He and Jo lifted up one another, and together, made a loving family.
He knew cars, how to fix things, and how to love. As a high school senior, he cared for his father in his infirmity and always rose to the task before him. He taught us to make our beds, clean our cars, and return phone calls. He modeled modesty and how to be soft spoken. He led us to offer a helping hand. He encouraged us not to fear and see our gifts as what they are—unique to us and needed in the world. He showed that love is key to a rich life.
The Great Depression and WWII shaped his early years. He had a paper route, was a movie theater usher, and carried his father’s tool box between refrigeration jobs. After high school he worked in a steel yard where he was taught to read blueprints and learned the day to day responsibilities of managing a crew of men. It was here in 1950, Mr. Norman Runyon, an engineer, suggested he enlist in Naval Reserve Officer Training (NROTC) as a way to attend college. He did and attended University of South Carolina where he graduated Cum Laude. As a member of Sigma Nu fraternity he attended a Pi Beta Phi sorority party. There he met his future wife when she nervously and absent-mindedly spilled punch on his dress whites. He told a friend later that night he would marry her, and six months later he did. Thus began a wonderful journey of 64 years together. From modest beginnings at Camp Lejeune, they began a family. Their first child, Ellen, was born on base while he served as Aide-de-camp to General Sidney Wade during operation Blue Bat in Beirut. Four years in the Marines led to a career in the energy industry which would take the family from Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Grand Isle on the gulf coast, to Houston, Pittsburgh, London, and ultimately, to Tokyo before settling on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. As the family grew they counted over thirteen moves, but the Shore has been a steady beacon as Dad’s Florida roots have been counter-balanced by Mama Jo’s deep connections through the Gibb, Ward, and Mathias families. We are thankful.
After 40 plus years as an engineer with Exxon, Gulf, Chevron, and Williams Energy, Jo and Kim retired to the Shore where they enjoyed a satisfying retirement. Kim was a member of the Onancock Lions Club, Naomi Makemie Presbyterian Church, Eastern Shore Antique Car Club, and the VFW. He and Jo volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army. Kim enjoyed sailing the bay on “Korroboree” and sharing rides in old cars. His green ‘54 MG TD and red ‘65 Mustang were often part of local parades. Besides old cars, music has been central to the family. Kim loved to sing songs from his fraternity days with Sigma Nu. He and Jo sang many a serenade and weren’t above corny folk tunes with their children and grandkids. He shared his wisdom through poems, stories, and Grandpa’s Rules. He leaves behind friends and family from around the world who mourn his loss and will remember him fondly.
A memorial service will be held late this summer, when family and friends can safely gather from varied locations. Details to be provided when available.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Riverside Shore Hospice, P.O. Box 615, Onley, VA 23418 or to your favorite charity.
The family thanks everyone for their kindness, especially the wonderful staff at Riverside Shore Hospice and the EMT’s at Onancock and Tasley Fire Departments, who came to our aide many times when we needed help.
Remembrances may be shared at www.williamsfuneralhomes.com.
Arrangements by the Williams-Onancock Funeral Home.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of R. Kim Penland, please visit our floral store.
Riverside Shore Hospice
P.O. Box 616, Onley VA 23418