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Memorials: Eugene Friends Meeting

Herb Kinney

Date of birth

April 26, 1922

Date of death

Dec. 20, 2021


Eugene Friends Meeting

Memorial minute

Herbert Leslie Kinney (“Herb”) was born on April 26, 1922, in Plainfield, Massachusetts (MA) in the Berkshires. At age 98, Herb died suddenly at home in Eugene, Oregon, on December 23, 2020. Fondly remembered, according to a F/friend in Coos Bay, as having a certain “kleos”, a Greek word meaning glory, about him. We miss his Love, respect, keen mind, and wry sense of humor.

Born to Ethel Upham and Elisha Stanton Kinney, Herb’s father died when Herb was three. His mother returned to the Upham Homestead in Townsend, MA, where he spent his early childhood. Herb attended Ayer High School (in MA) where a classmate, Sarah Longley, noticed that he arrived at school late every day with no repercussions from his teacher. She soon learned that Herb had taken on a morning paper route to help his widowed mother. Everyone, including the school administration, admired his loving sense of responsibility which remained a part of him his whole life.

Herb graduated from Ayer High School with high honors in 1940 and enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly after Pearl Harbor. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1942 and served overseas in the European Theater of Operations, reaching the rank of Captain.

In 1945 Herb married high school classmate Sarah Longley (Betsie), and resumed his education. In 1949, he graduated cum laude from Amherst College. As a returning GI, living in the GI village on campus with young families was not a typical college experience, but a uniquely heartwarming one. He recalled listening to Robert Frost in Johnson Chapel as one of his most memorable experiences while a student at Amherst. The highlight of his senior year came while writing his thesis on human rights when he was given an interview and had lunch with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt at Hyde Park. Betsie accompanied him and was able to capture the interview in shorthand. Herb later received a MBA from George Washington University and in 1962, he was selected as the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) “designated student” to attend the Defense Industrial College at Fort McNair.

Herb worked briefly for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Knoxville and then transferred, in 1951, to the Atomic Energy Commissions (AEC) offices in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 1956, he transferred to the AEC headquarters in Washington, DC. He worked in the Division of Research on peaceful uses of atomic energy and retired in 1979. That same year, the family moved to Long Island, NY, and he worked for fourteen years at the Brookhaven National Laboratory as Special Assistant to the Director.

Firmly opposed to war and all violence, Herb, Betsie, their son Jon (born in 1946) and daughter Katie (born in 1951), joined the Society of Friends (Quakers). They found a spiritual home in Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting in Maryland. Herb and Betsie served in many capacities in the Meeting and were warmly appreciated. Tributes written in a farewell scrapbook noted time and again how wonderful Herb and Betsie were as a team and how Herb’s calm demeanor and wry humor helped diffuse testy debates and enliven long meetings. Herb was an accomplished speaker with a voice that carried well, and he had an incisive grasp of important issues.

In addition to Friends’ activities, Herb and Betsie were an avid gardening team. They were known for the spectacular rock gardens they created wherever they lived, and Betsie recalls with a wry smile moving “tons of rocks” to create a large rock garden in Long Island. In time they also took up growing orchids and were widely known for their extensive and beautiful collection.

In 1998, Herb and Betsie moved to California’s Mojave Desert to be close to their daughter and her family. Four years later they followed the young family to Oregon, settling in Coos Bay. Herb and Betsie became beloved members of the Florence Worship Group, inviting the group to their home once a month for Meeting for Worship.

In July 2020, Herb and Betsie joyously celebrated their 75th Anniversary. Theirs was a long and happy life together, full of love and respect, but it also included devastating sadness. Their son, Jon, a naturalist ranger in Yosemite Park, died in 1986, victim of an automobile accident. Their daughter, Katie, died in 2015.

In 2017, Herb and Betsie moved once again. Leaving Coos Bay, they took up residence at The Springs at Greer Gardens in Eugene, Oregon, near their son-in-law. Part of their orchid collection came with them, and the rest was donated to the Coos Bay Orchid Society. They were delighted to now be living next door to a mature rhododendron forest. They attended Eugene Monthly Meeting where they offered heartfelt witness until COVID-19 closed the doors of the Meetinghouse.

He was not long with us Quakers in Eugene, but we loved him immediately and deeply. And, yes, he is missed.