Rex Kern: The legend that keeps givingA very incomplete list of those benefiting from their big-hearts include, The Circle of Hope, Adopt a Family for Christmas, the Billings Park Civic Center, Superior Fire Department, Salvation Army, Hunger Takes no Holiday, Pony Football, children with severe illness and they were a major contributor to Greenwood Cemetery in providing headstones for forgotten veterans when the vet’s had no family or finances.
By: By Don Leighton, For The Telegram, Superior Telegram
The following is a “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
When a person leaves us much too soon, many may wonder what kind of legacy was left to family, friends, and community. After all, most of us do not realize the needs of others because it is tough enough to exist with the uncertainty our world deals us each day. However, there are those who are exceptions to the rule and thankfully are aware of those less fortunate. Living a good life, working hard, having a great family, and being a major contributor to others pretty much sums up what a good person is. One such person who met these criteria was Michael “Rex” Kern.
Rex was born Dec. 1. 1956 and was a lifelong Superior resident. He graduated from Superior Senior High School in 1975 and continued his education at WITC in the field of welding. For 23 years, he worked for Concourse Grain and the Wisconsin State Grain Inspection Agency. At the WSGIA, Mike Granlund, aka, Billy, of Lance and Billy fame, was his boss. Granlund remembers Kern very well.
“I had the pleasure of working with Rex for a number of years,” Granlund said. “He was one of the best workers we ever had. He had a very calm demeanor; it seemed that nothing ever rattled him. His work ethic was great and he was one of our more productive employees. All of his co-workers liked and respected him and considered him a friend. He was one of the good guys.”
Rex and his wife, Renee, were married on July 17, 1976 and had celebrated 32 wonderful years of marriage. They had three kids, Keith, Kevin and Michelle. Jimmy’s Saloon in Billings Park has been the family business for the past 21 years and their generosity to worthy causes is a driving force in the Kern family.
A very incomplete list of those benefiting from their big-hearts include, The Circle of Hope, Adopt a Family for Christmas, the Billings Park Civic Center, Superior Fire Department, Salvation Army, Hunger Takes no Holiday, Pony Football, children with severe illness and they were a major contributor to Greenwood Cemetery in providing headstones for forgotten veterans when the vet’s had no family or finances.
As mentioned earlier, Rex left our world much too early on April 29, 2009 from a blood infection. His big generous heart just stopped due to multiple complications. But with his passing, the full life he led and legacy he would leave have benefited countless people of all ages in Superior. Why does this incredible family expend such energy to help others?
Renee loves to help people because that is what Rex loved to do. Sounds like they were made for each other.
“Mike was a very giving man who was always helping somebody, somehow,” Renee Kern said. “Our family has always looked for ways to help others in our community. We get “warm fuzzies” from helping others. Seeking publicity for what we choose to do is not important to us. Knowing we made a difference makes us happy.”
Son Keith remembers his dad with love and many stories. “We thought about creating a scholarship for my dad, but his thoughts were that ‘everybody was not destined for college — someone had to dig that ditch,’ and felt we could help to a greater degree by giving to worthy causes.”
The Michael “Rex” Kern Foundation was created five years ago to help the family facilitate their generosity. The foundations full energies will be on display tomorrow at the Poplar Golf Course for an event that will be fun, help others, provide great food and prizes and a chance to remember Rex with stories that should be recorded for posterity.
Keith came up with the idea to hold this annual extravaganza to “keep my dad’s memory alive.”
“We wanted to have a big party to remember my dad and to raise money to give to the community and various organizations,” Keith Kern said. “Dad is always with us and really liked to have a good time with family and friends. This event and the generosity of the Lattery family mean so much to our family.”
Through this five-year event, the foundation has given $12,000 to worthy causes and has helped thousands of people. Their donation to Hunger Takes no Holiday has provided 5,000 meals for those in Superior.
Beth Lattery, part of the ownership group of the Poplar Golf Course for the past three years, comments on the Kern family and this event.
“We host six or seven charity events each year and we do not charge green fees to the golfers so the events can make more money to give back to their cause,” Lattery said. “This is one of my favorite events because of our relationship with the Kern family. They are pretty incredible. A letter sent by the family received by each golfer speaks volumes about them.
“We would like to remind everyone that this tournament is a non-competitive event and is a chance for people to get together and remember all the good times Rex has left in our memories and to have a great time doing so”
Besides free golf, the PGC will give every team member involved a free round of golf to use next year, so please tell them “Thank You” and remember to be respectful of the course.
With 40 teams and 160 golfers, the PGC is making a tremendous donation of their own. Without them this tournament would not be as successful.
Cost for the four-person scramble is $40 per person and covers nine holes of golf, a cart, steak dinner to be held at Jimmy’s in the heart of downtown Billings Park, a certificate for a “come back” free round of golf to be used next year, and a chance to win a million other prizes.
Had I known Rex, a “Legend Lost” article would have been written in his honor upon his passing. He is truly a legend and because of his family, his legacy and legend will live forever.
Rex, you are now a member of the Lance and Billy Legend’s Lost Hall of Fame. I look forward to meeting you one day.
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