Remembering BMC Gordon B. Kenney, USCG

Article Photo Crop

Photo by Steve Sheppard. The unveiling of the plaque presented by the Nantucket Life-Saving Museum in memory of the late BMC Gordon B. Kenney was a part of a brief ceremony held at the Museum. Mrs. Irene Kenney and her son, Stephen, Petty officer 3/C, USCG, are shown following the unveiling of the plaque. Also shown in the photograph are Robert C. Caldwell, Mrs. Josephine Deveine, Chief Richard Rainvilee, USCG Brant Point Station, and Richard Deutsch. The Museum plaque dedicates the Builders' Plate, Lightship #112, in service on Nantucket Shoals, to the memory of Gordon B. Kenney, of Nantucket, BMC, United States Coast Guard.

The above photograph, copy, and following article were originally published by The Inquirer and Mirror on Thursday, August 18, 1983.

"The Inquirer and Mirror," August 18, 1983.

Dedication of plaque in memory of Gordon B. Kenney.

By Merle T. Orleans

A brief ceremony was held at the Nantucket Life-Saving Museum Monday noon when the Builders' Plate from Lightship #112 was dedicated in memory of the late BMC Gordon B. Kenney, by the United States Coast Guard Group, Woods Hole. The plaque dedicating the Builder's Plate was presented by the Nantucket Life-Saving Museum. The arrangements for the ceremony were made by Robert C. Caldwell, founder and president of the Museum which is located just off the Polpis Road.

Present at the ceremony were Mrs. Irene Kenney, widow of "Gordon B.," as he was known to all his friends in Nantucket, and Stephen Kenney, Petty Office 3/C, who is presently stationed with the Coast Guard Lifeboat Station, Sandwich, Massachusetts. Lt. Richard Rainville, from the Woods Hole Station, and Chief Paul Boucher, from the Brant Point Station, were present as were Gordon Kenney's uncle, aunt and cousin, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Devine and Shaun Devine, F. Philip Nash, Richard Deutsch and Mr. and Mrs. R. Arthur Orleans. Kenney's other son, Christopher, was unable to attend.

Lv 112 Circa 1970

LV #112 circa 1970.

Caldwell welcomed the group and said how much the Coast Guard Life Saving Museum had meant to Kenney and how much of his time and efforts had gone into helping establish it. Nash recalled the days when his family had lived across from the Brant Point Station during the years BMC Kenney was in charge, from 1959 to 1966. Deutsch also spoke of the days when Gordon Kenney was at Brant Point, and, on behalf of Caldwell, invited those present to visit the "other museum," Bob Caldwell's home behind the museum, for an informal luncheon.

Mrs. Kenney and her son unveiled the plaque presented by the Life-Saving Museum, dedicating the Lightship #112 Builders' Plate to the memory of Gordon B. Kenney. The Builders' Plate is located just above the plaque presented by the Life-Saving Museum, on the west wall of the building. Lightship #112 was built by the Pusey & Jones Corporation in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1935 and is presently the Nantucket Lightship tied up at the north side of Straight Wharf. Gordon B. Kenney was in charge of the Lightship when it was stationed on Nantucket Shoals, one of the most dangerous locations for any lightship on the east coast.

Sankaty Head C 1953

Sankaty Head Lighthouse circa 1973.

Gordon B. Kenney was born in Nantucket March 13, 1929, the son of John F. and Virginia (Brown) Kenney, who presently live in Centerville, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in November, 1948. After a few years training at other stations, he was put in charge of Sankaty Head Lighthouse for two years and then was transferred to the Nantucket Lightship in 1958. He was commended by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1959 for his action in commanding the Lightship, and bringing her in to port, during one of the worst storms ever experienced by the ship, a northwest gale which at times was of hurricane force.

Kenney was transferred from the Lightship #112 about ten months later and was placed in command of the Brant Point Station for the next seven years. Again he had an unusual experience. Brant Point Lighthouse, in November, 1959, was moved some twenty feet west of its base while a new foundation was laid. It was his duty to notify every vessel approaching Nantucket during the next three weeks that the location of the Lighthouse had been changed and that the commanding office of each such vessel was aware of the change in location in the light at the entrance to the harbor.

Brant Point Station C 1965

Brant Point Station, circa 1965.

The remaining years of his twenty year enlistment in the U.S. Coast Guard were spent at the Woods Hole Station. Following his retirement he served as an assistant director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau of Barnstable County Sheriff's Office. BMC Gordon B. Kenney, U.S.C.G. (Ret.), died at Cape Cod Hospital on November 30, 1981.

The dedication of this memorial plaque by the Nantucket Life-Saving Museum in Kenney's memory was most fitting and certainly well deserved, for a Nantucket man who had spent so many years of his life in Coast Guard service here on the island and on the Nantucket Shoal Lightship.

A New Plaque & Tribute

Since the time of the writing of the above article, the Builders' Plaque from the LV #112 was returned to the Lightship, a National Historic Landmark now operated out of Boston. At the 2019 Members Reception and Museum Opening to be hosted on Friday, May 24, 2019, a new plaque will be unveiled in tribute to BMC Gordon B. Kenney on the front lobby wall of the Museum. It will be placed next to the plaque honoring Kenney's dear friend and Museum founder, Robert. C. Caldwell.