• Kenneth Washington
  • 70 years old
  • Born in West Philadelphia, lived in North Philadelphia
  • Smart and steady, he was dedicated to service

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Kenneth O. Washington, a respected businessman and school security officer, died Thursday of COVID-19 at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. He was 70.

Born in West Philadelphia to Benjamin Sr. and Hattie Washington, Mr. Washington grew up on Commerce Street and at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. He was educated in Philadelphia public schools, and graduated in 1968 from Overbrook High School.

Mr. Washington studied business at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and, as a student there, began working at Baron’s Meat Market on 60th Street. Baron’s owner saw something special in Mr. Washington, said Keenan Washington Sr., Mr. Washington’s son, who noted that his father bought the business at 21.

“He was one of the only Black business owners in the area, and certainly one of the youngest,” Keenan Washington said.

After he sold his business, Mr. Washington worked as a grief counselor for the city, helping families who lost loved ones to violence.

Education was of great importance to Mr. Washington, and it was no surprise to anyone when he became a school security officer. He spent time at Bache-Martin and Harrison elementary schools before coming to Strawberry Mansion High School, where he was a fixture at the front door and a role model to many. He took joy in mentoring Mansion students, and some became so close to Mr. Washington that they called him “Pop-Pop”.

“He had a wonderful way of resetting everyone,” said Brian McCracken, Mansion principal. “He kept situations calm, and he had relationships with everyone.”

Service was important to Mr. Washington. He drove voters to the polls on Election Day, organized block cleanups and cared a great deal about his community. After his death, his family and colleagues heard stories of kindnesses small and large Mr. Washington performed and never talked about — taking seniors for groceries, making sure a colleague without a car got to work.

Mr. Washington was the consummate family man.

Sunday dinners — with his wife’s brisket, fried chicken livers, collard greens, mac and cheese, saffron rice and potato salad — were a highlight of Mr. Washington’s week, not just for the food but for the time spent with his children, grandchildren and eventually great-grandchildren. He never missed a college trip, school activity, birthday card or holiday with his grandchildren, and he encouraged them to strive for the best in whatever they did.

He was devoted to his wife of 21 years, Evelyn Brown Washington, whom he affectionately called “Evie-Wevie.” They enjoyed traveling together, but mostly, they liked spending quiet time at home: meals and television shows, talking about their days.

Mr. Washington was fiercely competitive and always on the go. He played pinochle, chess, tennis, and backgammon.

“There wasn’t a game that existed that he couldn’t figure out how to play and to beat you at,” Keenan Washington Sr. said. “And he did not believe in being sedentary.”

He was healthy and strong until he became ill from COVID-19 earlier this month.

Mr. Washington was a religious reader of the Daily News and an avid Philadelphia sports fan, with special devotion to the 76ers and Eagles.

He was a man of faith, and served as president of the usher board at Sharon Baptist Church.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Washington is survived by sons, Ricardo and Keenan Sr.; stepchildren, Irvin and Renee Busbee; a sister; a brother; seven grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and a host of other relatives and friends. He was predeceased by his parents and two of his brothers.

A viewing will be held from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 31 at Keeping It Real Christian Fellowship, 953 N. 10th St, Philadelphia, Pa., where a funeral service will be held at 10 a.m.