Kenneth (Ken) L. Franz of Columbia, South Carolina passed away peacefully on Thursday, January 21, 2021 at his home surrounded by his loving family. He was born in Alton, Illinois on January 2, 1931. He was the youngest of four sons of the late Arthur and Martha Franz of Alton, Illinois.
Ken was a 35-year member of Northeast Presbyterian Church, where he served as Deacon, Elder, Elder Emeritus and Sunday School President. He and his wife, Betty, were involved in the elder care ministry at Northeast Presbyterian Church and Pacific Park Community Center in Columbia.
After high school, Ken was drafted into the United States Marine Corps and served stateside during the Korean War. His MOS was as a lineman and more importantly, as a third baseman on the Marine Travel Baseball Team. Because of his great talent playing ball, the Marines could not “afford” to send him overseas during wartime…. he was too valuable on the team.
After 2-years’ service in the Marines, he returned to his home in Alton where met his future bride, Betty Collier, at the Kroger store in which he worked as a produce clerk. He often commented that he fell in love with Betty’s “smiling eyes” and her “walk away”.
Betty and Ken married in the spring of 1955; and in the winter of 1958, they welcomed their first child, Bradley. Then in 1961, their daughter, Lori, was born, followed by Steven 14 months later. The five of them were a close and loving family.
Ken’s career with the Kroger company was a success in all ways. As a young man, he worked in the regional St. Louis office as a produce buyer. The executives soon realized his potential of managing people, products and profits, so he climbed the corporate ladder quickly. He retired as a Zone Manager in 1989. At his retirement dinner, those whom he worked for and those who worked for him spoke graciously of his kindly nature, his inclusive spirit and his sharp wit and intelligence.
After retirement, he devoted much of his time to his church, grandchildren, gardens, golf and friends. He and several of his “pals” met weekly for “coffee and conversation” at Joe Muggs. Even though their politics conflicted (which made for lively discussions), their deep friendship spanned many years. In October 2020, the “final four” pals met at one of their homes for coffee and sweets. From all accounts, it was a wonderful time.
Ken is survived by his children, Lori (Gary) Baker and Steve Franz; grandchildren, Chris (Sharon) Franz and Christy Franz, Andrew (Sarah) Baker, Hannah (Eric) McDaniel, Joseph (Machaela) Baker, Stephanie (Kevin) Knippen and David Franz; great-grandchildren, Willow Franz, Daisy McDaniel and Cameron Baker; and many nieces and nephews near and far.
Ken is predeceased by his wife, Betty, his son, Bradley, his daughter-in-law, Eyvonne, and his parents and three brothers.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, February 13 at 2pm at Northeast Presbyterian Church: 601 Polo Road, Columbia SC 29223. Please wear masks and practice social distancing. There will be no formal visitation before or after the service. Donations may be made to Northeast Presbyterian Church or Amedisys Hospice Foundation.
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