KENNETH  SMITH: A  Water  Service  Legend

kenplaq.jpg (21516 bytes)Kenneth Smith was passionate about many things in life - his family, his collies, fishing, watching sports, the Civil War and working for JEA.

When Kenneth died of complications from leukemia on November 7, JEA lost a 39-year employee who knew the water service system like the back of his hand.

"His passion was JEA," says his wife, Mary Kay. "He lived, slept, ate and drank JEA." Even when he was sick and going to the doctors office, his first question was always "when can I go back to work?" his wife says.

"He was working until his last stay in the hospital," says chief field service dispatcher Rose Maness, who worked with Kenneth 27 years. "His job kept him going. He loved his work and rarely missed a day. He took pride in his work."

Kenneth was a water service man. His knowledge of the system is legendary. "You could ask him for the location

of a water service by just giving an address," says Chuck Underwood, superintendent of Field Services. "He didn't have to see the house; he would know by the address. He was a resource we all used."

Service man Tony Davis recalls that Kenneth was willing to come out and help any time he was needed. "Once when I was working the night shift and the weather was freezing cold, I answered a late night call downtown for a busted sprinkler system where the basement was filling with water. I called Kenneth at home just to ask a question and, to my surprise, with-in 10 minutes I noticed a car with its flashers on. Kenneth had come on his own time in his personal vehicle to offer his help."

Rose can recall many incidents of Kenneth helping her on the job. When the roads were slick, he'd drive her to her jobs for the water system. He brought gravel to her and helped her fill in holes when she was locating water meter boxes. One day when she needed to locate a sewer force main in the middle of a mosquito infested cotton field, he was there helping and found the main.

"There's no telling how many times Kenneth helped people find water meter boxes," Rose says. "If you couldn't find a water meter box, all you had to do was call truck 131 on the radio and Kenneth could tell you. We all accused him of having a book that he wrote down where all of the water meters in Jackson were located. He must have had a photographic memory of where they were because he had seen a whole lot of them in his nearly 40 years as a water serviceman."

Kenneth started work at JEA on October 24. 1967, as a Water Department clerk and advanced to the position of serviceman. Even after the reorganization that put all servicemen in one department, Kenneth continued to concentrate on water services. He drove truck 131.

In the last several years as he worked with Kenneth in field services, Tony says he had the opportunity to get to know Kenneth well and to appreciate him. "Kenneth Smith was a friend," Tony says.

"He was always friendly, always trying to help," says Norman Gates, a retired serviceman who worked with Kenneth.