Appreciation: Remembering Kenneth Dilanian Sr.

Special to the Patriot-Bridge

On the afternoon of May 17, 2021, Kenneth (Ken) Dilanian Sr. passed away peacefully at his home on Cedar Street in Charlestown at the age of 88, just a couple of weeks before his 89th birthday.  He was surrounded by his son Ken Dilanian, his daughter Jane Reitz, and all four of his grandchildren.

The youngest son of Armenians, who fled Turkey for Boston ahead of the 1915–1917 genocide, he enjoyed a childhood in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. He rode the subway by himself at 8 years old, played stickball on the street, and regularly snuck into Fenway Park. After the games, he would put on a jacket and tie and go to the Copley Plaza Hotel to beg autographs from famous ballplayers, believing a presentable appearance would improve his chances. He remembers where he was when he heard the news that Pearl Harbor was attacked, and also waiting in line to buy a ticket to Game Six of the 1946 World Series, only to watch the curse persist as the Red Sox fell to the Cardinals. He was the first person in his family to go to college. After getting an undergraduate and law degree, he did his military service as a clerk in the Army’s ceremonial Old Guard regiment, standing at attention for President Eisenhower. He used the GI bill to get an MBA.

Ken moved to Charlestown 12 years ago to live with his daughter Jane and her family after being diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS. At the time of his diagnosis, he was given three years to live.

Immediately from the start, Ken was welcomed in the neighborhood.  He became a volunteer reader at the Warren-Prescott School, picked up his granddaughter, Emma, every day at the Good Shepherd Nursery School and walked his grandson, Charlie, to the Warren-Prescott. Every Friday, when it was still around, he would take his grandchildren to Friendly’s, and on game days, he would bring his folding chair down to the Neck or high school fields to watch them play baseball or soccer. He was grateful to be part of a warm and friendly community and cherished, what he thought, was limited time with his family.  Three years turned into 12 and while doctors were flummoxed on how he was still living with this disease, he was witnessing his grandkids grow from toddlers to teenagers.

Because COVID halted all of his grandchildren’s daily activities, it gave him an unexpected gift; even more time with his family.  During the pandemic, he was able to sit down to family dinners and hear the daily travails of his grandchildren every evening. When professional sports returned, he would watch every Celtics and Red Sox game, often with his grandson Charlie.

While in hospice, at his home in Charlestown, one of dad’s last pieces of advice to his grandchildren, “Talk is cheap, take responsibility for your actions and be there for each other.”

Words that we can all find useful in life.   Ken is survived by daughter and son-in-law Jane and Allen Reitz , his son Ken Dilanian and daughter in law Cathy Yoon, his sister Grace Skogan and his four loving grandchildren, Charlie and Emma Reitz and Ken and Max Dilanian.

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