On Sept. 21, Ann Kennamer passed away due to an illness. Though she’s now been gone for several months, the impact she’s left in the community will remain for years to come. It takes very little effort to find a positive in the community that has Kennamer’s fingerprints somewhere on it.
“One of her favorite sayings was from St. Francis, ‘preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words’ and she did things where it was not necessary to use words. That’s sort of describes her approach to life in this community,” Ann’s husband, Stephen Kennamer said.
Originally born in Craig, Colorado in 1955, Kennamer moved to Scottsboro at six years old, where she’d remain most of her life. After graduating from Scottsboro High School in 1973, Kennamer went to Northeast Alabama College and then Jacksonville State, graduating with an education degree. Kennamer would attend the University of Alabama for graduate school, supposedly being “a thesis short” of a master’s degree.
After graduation, Kennamer worked in education, teaching fifth grade at Page Elementary. Eventually, Kennamer ran into issues with the emphasis at the time being put on the “report” system, designed to “categorize kids, fit them in a niche and go forward with it.” After some time, Kennamer transitioned to owning and running a couple of local businesses.
“She believed that children should be allowed to be children and there is no set, fast, complete rule that’s going to cover the development and education of an individual child. Children are different and she believed that she should educate people to the maximum of their potential. What might be good for you might not be the same for me,” Stephen Kennamer said. “She was old school. Her grandmother was a teacher who had 50-60 kids in a room and handled it and she believed that a teacher should be able to handle that without having to shift kids off here and there. She didn’t like the bureaucracy of education. She felt that teachers should be there to teach and educate.”
During her time in business, Kennamer owned the Scottsboro Lady’s and Children’s shop until she sold it and bought and remodeled Payne’s Drug Store before selling it as well.
After some time, Kennamer was hired as the executive director of the IMPACT Learning Center. While a part of IMPACT, Kennamer was a key component of raising funds, starting a pre-K program at a time that was nonexistent in the city, starting a distance learning Psychology course at a time where distance learning was unheard of and adult education, including adult reading, English second language and computer classes.
“I’m not anywhere near her expertise but I feel honored to be in this role. I have some big shoes to fill and I want to make sure that I make her proud and that we continue the work that we’re doing. I feel very humbled that she showed me how to do this because she’s made this my passions like it was her passion,” IMPACT learning center executive director Cathy Mitchell said.
After initially retiring, Kennamer got back to work, this time for the Project SEARCH Program in Marshall County, training handicapped and disabled people on how to do their respective jobs.
“The purpose is to put special needs kids who are still in the school system until their 21st birthday into a job and help design an individualized curriculum for them to do a particular job. This would require Ann having to learn that particular job, design something for that particular student’s needs and then train that kid how to do it,” Stephen Kennamer said. “It went as far as her having to get boots and special clothes to learn how to work in a chicken plant in Albertville to restaurant work, to receptionist work. The funniest, though, was the chicken plant, learning how to cut off chicken’s heads and such.”
Outside of work, Kennamer was a member of the Scottsboro Rotary Club, becoming the second female president of the club, serving as a member of the board of directors as well as vice president and secretary. Kennamer helped to raise the amount of scholarships given by the Rotary Club and was a big part of the DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Day project sponsored by the Rotary Club, which gives every elementary student in the city a free book.
Kennamer was also involved with the school system outside of teaching, being a supporter of the Scottsboro High School band, help Northeast Alabama Community College on several projects as well as being on the committee that hired Dr. David Campbell as the president of the college. Kennamer also helped some students get through school and get involved in various activities.
“She would be embarrassed for me to say it but she paid for several kids tuition (for Northeast Alabama Community College) out her own pocket just because they did not have the money to go. She also paid for things kids could not afford to take the SAT or ACT test. She would very quietly make arrangements to pay for that, usually out of her own pocket,” said Stephen Kennamer. “The same thing for kids who wanted to be in band or wanted to be in various activities who did not have the money with which to pay. She wanted everyone to have a shot at things so if she needed to, she would take action.”
Though she passed in September, the impact Kennamer had and the foundation she laid through her work will be remembered long from now.
Part of that legacy will be seen in the IMPACT Learning Center’s computer lab, which will be named after Ann Kennamer.
“I remember her collecting the computers and I saw how excited she was to get it and have a class. Gadgets and computers were always her fun thing so I think it’s fitting. I think she would be honored, I think she would like that,” Mitchell said. “She’s part of this legacy like the original people who started this. Dr. Charles Bradford and his group of individuals who started it. She’s one of those members and her legacy is going to live on through IMPACT, I hope.”
To honor her memory, Stephen will continue to support some of the organizations Ann was involved with throughout her life, in particular the IMPACT Learning Center, the public library and The Arc.