Kinsmen Park picnic table dedicated to Kelowna icon

A polished stone picnic table was unveiled in Kinsmen park on Wednesday for Ken Harding

A Kelowna man’s legacy will live on thanks to a new installment in Kinsmen Park.

As a recognition for his decades of dedicated service to the Central Okanagan, the Kelowna Kinsmen Club, friends and family gathered at the park on May 9 to honour Ken Harding -­ exactly one year after his death.

The K-40 and Kelowna Kinsmen Club first decided to dedicate a picnic table for Ken while he was still alive, but unfortunately he died before he had a chance to see it in person.

“Today is sort of a last farewell for us. You never forget but this helps us pay respects to him and hopefully his memory will live on,” said his son, Kevin Harding.

“It is fantastic to have all these people here. The Kinsmen Club was a very big part of his life. He was one of the founding members, at age 19, in 1948. He was a very active member in most everything you can think of in the city.”

Kevin said he worked tirelessly to put together projects that still benefit the city to this day.

“To him this would be… he would be most honoured,” added Kevin. “Family, friends, Kinsmen — they were his favourite things.”

Friends and family gathered near Ken Harding’s new memorial bench in Kelowna’s Kinsmen Park. Image credit: Carmen Weld.

Former Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray was on site for the dedication and said Ken was an idol to him.

“I had two idols growing up as a kid and young adult, one was then Premier Bill Bennett and the other was Ken Harding, and in fact Ken and Bill were good friends,” said Gray.

He first met Ken when he walked in to the Whillis Harding Insurance Agency to get car insurance at 16 years old.

Through a few insurance saves over the years for Gray, and their work in the community, Gray got to know Ken well.

“He was involved in everything, including being a founding member of the Kinsmen Club in Kelowna. He just seemed to be involved in everything and on both sides of the lake,” he said. “Kelowna to him was beyond the city boundaries. He had the knack of being a wonderful gentlemen in business and in the community.”

Ken’s wife of 68 years, Gwenith Harding, was also in attendance on Wednesday and was pleased to see her husband’s decades of work commemorated in this way.

“It’s just great,” said Gwenith. “He did so much, he was always busy. After he had to leave office at Kinsmen he still always went. He got involved in the chamber, just everything.”

As part of the ceremony on Wednesday, those in attendance suggested that Kinsmen park should be renamed to include Ken’s name, something along the lines of Ken Harding-Kinsmen park or Kinsmen-Harding Park, etc.

Friends and family gathered near Ken Harding’s new memorial bench in Kelowna’s Kinsmen Park. Image credit: Carmen Weld.

Gray shared his approval of this idea while his son Kevin said he hadn’t even considered that idea before it was first mentioned by 94-year-old Alan Carter.

“It would be fitting, dad did so much for the community, but I think that would be an uphill battle,” said Kevin, with a chuckle. “I think having the picnic table here will be great, just as it is.

“One of his nicknames was Mr. Kelowna, the grey fox, the mayor that never was. He was very good with people, a man of his word. He was true to himself and true to the community.”

A photo of Ken Harding sits on his new memorial bench in Kelowna’s Kinsmen Park. Image credit: Carmen Weld.

In a recent Capital News column, Charlie Hodge described him as “truly a Kelowna icon”.

Some of his contributions include; President of the Chamber of Commerce, a Rotarian, Central Okanagan Foundation, founding member of Bursary and Scholarship Society, B.C.I.T., United Way, Bold Horizons Campaign, Safety Council and the Gellatly Nut Farm.

He was previously honoured by receiving the Queens’ Jubilee Medal, Honorary Fellow of Central Okanagan College, Fred Macklin Memorial Award, and member of the Board of First United Church.

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@carmenweld
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