0221KenTonnissen.jpg

Kenneth Martin Tonnissen Jan. 15, 1951 - Dec. 28, 2018 CHELSEA — Ken Tonnissen, a longtime resident of central Vermont, died on Dec. 28, 2018, in the company of his family. Ken was born on Jan. 15, 1951, in Daly City, California. As a boy, Ken self-enlisted in the Cub Scouts. As a teen, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout, which fewer than 5 percent of Scouts do, and was welcomed into Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s National Honor Society. Scouts helped Ken develop a lifelong love of nature, the outdoors and the open road, which he lived out in many rambles across America and in the wilds of Vermont. After coming East as a young man, Ken lived in northern Pennsylvania and on Maine’s Peaks Island before moving to the Green Mountain State, where he lived for 28 years. Ken made his living as a computer programmer, working for many years for Rush Institute for Healthy Aging and teaching at Woodbury College in Montpelier. But he gave his heart to bluegrass. A Founding Father of both the Putnamville Revenooers and The Trailerblazers, Ken lent his considerable pipes and his six-string and dobro handiwork to the standards of Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, the Stanley Brothers and many more. Musically, Ken was an Americana omnivore and at gig or picking session, he was apt to pull out an old jug band classic, a country weeper, or even “Princess Poo-Poo-Ly Has Plenty Papaya,” which he seldom completed due to fits of laughter. His original song, “Where the Graveyards Used to Be,” which appears on the Revenooers only recording, reflects Ken’s love for the America of old. He was also a fan of natural history books, detective novels, old movies and Rocky and Bullwinkle. Long before it was cool, Ken was a lifelong learner. As a young man, he pursued an associate degree in forestry. As an older one, he earned an associate degree in Prevention and Community Development at Woodbury. Anyone who knew Ken well also knew his canine companions, whom Ken loved beyond measure. Scruff and Sassafras, Java and Dobro all traveled at Ken’s side in the passenger seats of his various rigs and lay at his feet as he worked and played. Their lives were enriched by Ken’s kindness and generosity: few dogs ate better or enjoyed more attention. Ken’s love of animals extended beyond the canine, and sheep, chickens, cats, llamas, goats, alpacas and doves all thrived under his capable care. Ken also cared about people and gave his time to various good causes, including volunteering at the Randolph Food Shelf and serving on its board of directors. Ken is survived by his son, Zach and daughter-in-law Sandra Lory, of Orange; his son, Josh, daughter-in-law Katie Tonnissen and grandson Adric, of Aptos, California; his stepson, Jeremy Reef, of Queensbury, New York; and his sister, Beverly, of Santa Rosa, California. He also leaves his former wife, Barbara Gustafson-Reef, to whom he was married for 25 years. Donations in memory of Ken may be made to the Randolph Food Shelf and the Central Vermont Human Society. A celebration and memorial of Ken’s life will be held in the spring. To stay informed about plans for the service, email KTmemorial2019@gmail.com.

(1) entry

Carolviola

Ken you are the most remarkable man ! I love you still and always will. My deep sympathy goes to your family and friends. Our short 2 years together were the best times of my life. I will always carry you in my heart. You once said that to me. Your warmth and perseverance have been an inspiration to me! I learned so much through you and hope to see you again someday in the light!

Sign the guestbook.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.