A Life Lived: Ken Nave never strayed far from his roots

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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Kenneth H. Nave lived to be 93 years of age and in his lifetime, he did a lot of living. He valued family, work, his church and the people he worked and worshiped with.
Ken was proud of his heritage and never strayed far from his roots. He grew up in the Siam Valley, just below the Wilbur Dam on the Watauga River. He was the son of Austin and Carrie Lee Treadway Nave and was one of eight children. He was the last of his brothers and sisters to die.
Ken was a graduate of Elizabethton High School and was a veteran of World War II. “He was on a ship to Japan when the United States bombed Hiroshima. Of course, that was the end of the war. My dad was proud of his military service,” said his daughter, Tonia Nave, who now lives in Florida. “Dad was always a hard worker, but he took time for his family and the things that were important in life.”
His first job was pumping gas at the old Spur Gas Station. He later sold insurance, and wishing to better himself, Ken attended Steed College, when it was located in Elizabethton. From there he was employed as accounts manager at Powell’s Department Store in Johnson City. He later worked at the Johnson City Memorial Hospital, and from there was employed as personnel director at the old Carter County Memorial Hospital, and finished out his working career at Sycamore Shoals Hospital.
Ken was well-liked by his peers. Sharon Shepard, who knew Ken from the hospital, noted he was always kind and respected by hospital employees. “Ken was a very friendly person and long after he left the hospital, when visiting, he would always stop by my office to say hi. Most of the employees he worked with are no longer here, but I remember him as being loyal, devoted to his work, and very kind not only to the employees, but to the public,” said Shepard.
Ken and his wife, the former Jeanette Anderson, were married 71 years. Long-time residents of the Hunter Community, they more recently lived at Sycamore Springs Senior Living Facility. “At first, it was hard for them, but as they adjusted they enjoyed it there. They especially enjoyed going on the trips the facility hosted and going out to eat with other residents,” said Tonia.
Ken was a man of many talents. It seems he was always looking for something new to do. “He had a passion for painting with watercolors, especially outdoor scenes of Carter County attractions. He framed them and had them hanging in every room of the house and even in the garage,” said Tonia. She noted that he also made the frames for his paintings — all out of wormy chestnut wood.
Ken enjoyed gardening and every year raised a vegetable garden. He enjoyed local history and researching his family’s roots. Tonia said her father worked many hours with local historian Bobby Nave researching the Nave family roots. “He loved his family and visited often with his siblings. When I was growing up, I remember that every month we visited at least one of his sisters or his brother and spent time with them,” said Tonia.
Ken knew a lot about the Siam Community and the history of Wilbur and Watauga Dams. Often he called us at the paper to talk “history.” He last called us this past March expressing a desire to see a monument built for the four young men who perished in the Jenkins Mountain Fire. His nephew was among those killed.
“My father talked fondly of his growing up years. He grew up, working on a farm, and it was hard work. But, he never spoke negatively of it. He took pride in his family, their place in the community, and his roots,” said Tonia.
“My dad also loved his church at Hunter Memorial Baptist. He was a long-time member of the church and enjoyed singing in the choir. And, he sang loudly,” Tonia said with laughter. To Ken, it was a joyful noise.
In addition to Tonia, Ken and Jeanette were parents of a son, Dennis, who preceded them in death.
“My dad was a wonderful person and a great father. He was very devoted to my mother, especially these last few years. He had so many good qualities,” said Tonia.
Ken and Jeanette also had two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Ken Nave was able to reach high in life because he had deep roots that were value-based and he majored on the things that were important in life — family, faith, friends, and hard work.

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