Kenneth Charles Babcock, successful entrepreneur and influential community leader in northeastern Kansas, has died. He was 71.
Babcock, founder and president of Ken Babcock Sales, Inc. since 1977, died Friday in a private plane incident over rural Nebraska.
In the wake of his death, the countless friends and colleagues that remember Babcock may prove to be his greatest legacy. "Ken was legendary,” said Varga Gladhart, representing Gladhart Farms. “He was a builder of many things...including people." An everyman’s kingmaker, he seems larger than life because he influenced people each day in ways that changed them forever.
Born December 23, 1941, Babcock demonstrated an early inclination toward nurturing potential in things and people around him. An avid nature lover, he received a Master of Science degree in Biology from Emporia State University in 1970. Holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Education as well, Babcock decided to focus on growing people through teaching, a gift evident throughout his life.
Although he loved his students at Rosedale High School and Highland Community College, his father’s illness brought Babcock back to the family farm. In retrospect, Babcock’s creation of Ken Babcock Sales, Inc. (KBS), in 1977 represents the consummation of his personal and professional passions. Providing agricultural sales and service to a global clientele, KBS gave Babcock a forum without borders in which to meet, connect, and nurture people. “His life profoundly influenced so many others,” said a close family friend and former employee. “His incredible generosity and sincere interest in people’s lives made him unique as a person and a businessman.”
“He was a guiding force in my life,” said Ken McCauley, former president of the National Corn Growers Association. “People like Ken Babcock make their mark on the world and set the bar very high for the next generation.” For those of us left behind trying, in Babcock’s own, well-remembered words, “Keep the faith!”
Babcock was preceded in death by parents, Mary Frances and Nathan Kingsley Babcock; and by his brother-in-laws, James “Jim” Armstrong, Phil Sauceman and John Sunderlin. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Babcock of Hiawatha, Kansas; daughters, Kenna Babcock of Fairway, Kansas; and Matea Babcock; sister Marian Armstrong of Fairway, Kansas; brother James “Jim” Babcock (Marjean Babcock) of Hiawatha; sister-in-law Susan Sunderlin of Hiawatha; sister-in-law Kelly Cook (Doug Cook) of Anderson, South Carolina; sister-in-law Trish Sauceman of Bull Head City, Arizona; brother-in-law Peter “Pete” Sunderlin (Susie Rodriguiez) of Machesney Park, Illinois; brother-in-law Paul Sunderlin of Rockford, Illinois;
nephews and nieces James Armstrong of Belton, Missouri; Roxanne Armstrong of Kansas City; Michael Armstrong (Beth Armstrong) of Kansas City, Missouri; Mary Helen Armstrong of Carlsbad, California; Beverly Armstrong of Everest, Kansas; Byron Babcock of South Fork, Colorado; Britt Babcock of Colorado Springs, Colorado;
Michael Sunderlin of Rockford, Illinois; Heather Sunderlin of Rochelle, Illinois; Amy Sunderlin of Edwardsville, Illinois; Robert Sunderlin and Ariel Sunderlin of Machesney Park, Illinois; Ike Sauceman of Phoenix, Arizona; Christian Cook and Scott Cook of Anderson, South Carolina;
Megan Yaussi (Jeremy Yaussi) of Topeka, Kansas; Ian Armstrong of Wichita, Kansas; Nathan Armstrong of Everest, Kansas; Raven Babcock of Reserve, Kansas; Quinn Armstrong, Tess Armstrong, and Liam Armstrong of Kansas City, Kansas; Tyler Babcock of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Madison Yaussi and Austin Yaussi of Topeka, Kansas; and Tyler Armstrong of Everest, Kansas.
A man of many interests, Babcock ministered through several philanthropic activities, including The Gideons International. Contributions to continue his charitable work may be made to the Kenneth C. Babcock Memorial Fund, 601 South 23rd Street, Hiawatha, Kansas, 66434.
A memorial service at NorthRidge Church in Sabetha, Kansas, will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, January 19, 2013, followed by a celebratory dinner. Interment will follow at a later date.