Friends honor, remember legendary Utah cowboy poet

Monday , January 05, 2015 - 11:36 AM

By BEN LOCKHART
Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN — Cowboy, boxer, poet and friend — one of the Top of Utah's greatest performers left a lot of legacies before he died on New Year's Day.

Donald "Don" Kennington is well remembered by his closest friends as a man of many talents, and to others he was perhaps best known as an iconic entertainer with the Cowboy Poets of Utah. After he died in Ogden on Thursday, Kennington's friends remembered him as a man as modest and genuine as he was talented.

"The thing most impressive about Don is he didn't know how much he was well-known, well-liked and famous locally," said longtime friend Stan Tixier. "He was a a humble kind of guy."

Kennington and Tixier were charter members of the Cowboy Poets of Utah, a folk art and storytelling organization founded in 2000. Tixier remembers Kennington as one of the most engaging poets he has known.

"He was a good poet — a lot of it was about his life as a young cowboy growing up," Tixier said. "He was just infectious."

The two men would frequently compete for storytelling awards.

"He was a tough act to follow, I'll tell you that."

Kennington gave up performing as his health declined in his last years, but he and Tixier remained good friends and spoke every month.

"(Not performing poetry) was very tough on him," said Tixier, who lives in Eden. "That was a real loss to fans of cowboy poetry in Utah."

Kennington's years as a poet took him to events throughout the western United States. His greatest strength as a poet was his trademark humor, said CPU member Jan Erickson, who runs the organization’s website with his wife, Judy.

"He could do serious stuff. But his funny stuff, nobody could do it better than him," Erickson said. "He was charming, he was fun to watch, he was natural."

Friends say Kennington, who moved to Ogden in 1951, was a true renaissance man. He developed his passion for cowboy poetry well into his 50s, after a lifetime of raising six children with his wife, Arlene, becoming a champion amateur boxer, working as a machinist on Hill Air Force Base and shoeing more than 30,000 horses. He also taught Weber State courses on horseshoeing and volunteered extensively in his Latter-day Saints ward.

"He always had time for everybody," Judy Erickson recalled.

Kennington and his brother Phil also authored an award-winning five-part book series drawing from their early life growing up in a two-room cabin in Idaho, where they herded cattle, trained horses and competed in rodeos. The stories are based in fact, "but are embellished somewhat to provide great entertainment for all," according to his good-natured series description on amazon.com

"I can't say enough what a kind and generous individual he was," Tixier said. "There was not a mean bone in his body."

Kennington's funeral will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday at the LDS Westwood Ward chapel in Farr West at 2123 N. 200 West. Friends are invited to visit Myers Mortuary at 825 Washington Blvd. in Ogden from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and 9:40 to 10:40 a.m. Tuesday before the beginning of services. Kennington's family has said any donations may be made to the LDS Humanitarian Fund.

Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or blockhart@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart. Like his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/blockhartSE.

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