William E. Kenerson
William E. Kenerson
MIDDLEBURY — Bill Kenerson, longtime Middlebury resident and acknowledged bow-tie aficionado, died peacefully at his home on November 16th, 2012, with his wife by his side. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1931, the younger son of Bernard and Dorothy (Sisson) Kenerson. He attended Hopkins Grammar School, graduated from Yale University and served proudly in the United States Marine Corps.
Bill started his productive business career with General Electric and was eventually appointed human relations manager at their plant in Brockport, N.Y. He also held positions with the General Railway Signal Co. in Rochester, N.Y., and with Bausch & Lomb as VP of industrial relations.
In 1978, Bill moved to Vermont to pursue a more entrepreneurial effort, purchasing the Killington Country Resort. In later years, he was fond of saying, “I thought I understood cash flow until I owned KCR; then I really understood cash flow!” He was appointed director of human resources for Simmonds Precision in Vergennes in 1979, a position he held until the company was purchased by BF Goodrich in 1990.
Bill served his community in myriad ways. He was a member of the board of the United Way of Addison County, active with the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, served on the board of the Addison County Economic Development Corporation and as a member of Middlebury’s Planning Commission.
In 1991, Governor Richard Snelling tapped Kenerson to serve as Vermont’s Commissioner of Economic Development. Returning to Addison County in 1992 to serve as the Addison County Director of Economic Development Corporation, Bill soon began to lay the groundwork for an undertaking that would become a passion that would last the rest of his life.
Discouraged with the availability of a good selection of bow ties in men’s stores, Bill and Deb Venman launched Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont, a mail-order purveyor of handmade bow ties and other men’s fashion accessories in the spring of 1993. A classic start-up, Beau Ties began as a nights-and-weekends home-based business located in a room off their bedroom. While Bill and Deb kept their day jobs, they plotted the future growth of the company. In true success-story fashion, it soon grew into a full-time effort, utilizing the skills of many local seamstresses and a small support staff.
It was not long before Beau Ties had a loyal and rapidly growing cadre of customers. In 1999, having outgrown all available space in the family home, Beau Ties moved into a new facility on Industrial Avenue in Middlebury that allowed all aspects of the business – manufacturing, marketing, customer service and shipping – to be housed at a single location. The business continued to grow, eventually employing 25 people, mailing nearly half a million catalogues each year, creating a vital presence on the web and taking a lead in the niche bow tie market. Bill and Deb sold the company in 2012, just months before his death.
Well-known for his signature Beau tie and sometimes irascible nature, Bill was also an avid golfer, a great fan of baseball – particularly the Red Sox – and had a great love for dogs. (The same cannot be said of cats.) An enthusiastic gardener, Bill was known for his dahlias, which he shared with all his Beau Ties cohorts. At Beau Ties, where a corporate love of celebratory group lunches became the norm (any occasion is worthy of a good lunch), Bill was never known to pass up pepperoni, deviled eggs or Swedish meatballs – particularly when someone else was doing the cooking. For reasons unknown to others, he also loved lunches at McDonalds, but only on Thursdays.
Bill is survived by his wife, Deborah Venman; and five children from a previous marriage, Laurie White and her husband Jim Herley, Amy and Joe Ahearn, Will and Shari, Liz, and Joe and his wife Lynette. His three stepchildren, David Venman, Betsy Thompson and Amy Venman, also survive him; as do 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He also leaves his brother Ken and wife Ruth, and their sons, Bernard and Bush.
The family would like to thank Addison County Home Health & Hospice for their invaluable assistance that allowed Deb to keep Bill at home, and in particular, the services of Jane Kearns, RN and aide Joanne Paige.
There will be no calling hours. The funeral service will be held at the Middlebury Congregational Church at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 24, 2012. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis, Suite F, #227, 1569 Branham Lane, San Jose, CA 95118-5226 (www.coalitionforpf.org); or Addison County Home Health & Hospice Inc., PO Box 754, Middlebury, VT 05753. Stephen Gregory Cremation Services will be in charge of arrangements.