Watch a video profile of Navy veteran, Cornell alumnus, and centenarian Kenneth Dehm. Credit: Adam Murtland.
Kenneth Dehm ’50 turned 100 on February 27, 2019. Dehm was born in 1919 in Syracuse, where he lived with his parents and five siblings on a small farm. He got his first job at age 11, delivering newspapers to neighbors via bicycle, to help support his family. “It was beneficial to meet those people,” he said.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Dehm enlisted in the Navy. He was a crew member on the USS Barnegat, a Navy vessel whose mission was to track German submarines and deliver personnel and supplies to Iceland.
After the war, Dehm took advantage of the GI Bill to attend the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, and he graduated in 1950 with a bachelor of science in economics. Through a friend from Cornell, Dehm found a job with the Climax Corporation, selling agricultural equipment to farmers in the region.
A few years later, Dehm met and married his wife, Teresa, and settled in Batavia, New York. It was love at first sight, and Dehm carries a picture of Teresa, who died in 2011, in his pocket to this day. After retiring at age 70, Dehm traveled across the US with his wife, visiting 48 of the 50 states.
Thirty years later, Dehm remains in excellent health. He keeps his body active by riding his bicycle a few miles a day, and he keeps his mind engaged playing cribbage at the Senior Center in Batavia.
In fall 2018, Dehm’s daughter Jayne Mariano reached out to Cornell Alumni Affairs and Development (AAD) to let us know her father’s 100th birthday was approaching, and to ask if we could “think of something we could do to help this man celebrate his life.”
After learning that Dehm’s class ring had gone missing, and that “over the years he had put an ad in the paper, asking if anyone had come across it,” AAD decided to gift Dehm with a class ring to replace the original. Dehm was deeply grateful for this surprise gift. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said with a big smile, as he put the ring on.
Enjoy this short video about Kenneth Dehm, an extraordinary Cornellian who continues to enrich his corner of the world with his goodwill and zest for life. Credit: Adam Murtland.