AFRH-G Veteran Highlight – Kenneth E. “Ken” Schneider
By Lori Kerns, AFRH-G Librarian
Ken Schneider is the second youngest of ten children born to an iron factory worker and homemaker. Growing up during the Great Depression, he and his family felt very fortunate that their father had a decent job during such desperate times. Ken loved to play all sports when he was a child. The love of sports introduced him to boxing. His boxing career even took him to the Ozark AAU Boxing Championship where he fought in the welter-weight division and beat his opponent. His goal was to become a prize fighter. Those plans changed quickly when he received a draft notice.
What began as a draft fulfillment ended up being a productive 21-year Navy career for Ken. Staying mostly on sea duty throughout his career, he served on six different ships that sailed to many exotic locations during WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He began his profession working as a barber mostly aboard troop transport ships. His years at sea provided many unique experiences. One highlight was when the movie star Tyrone Power was aboard his ship. He had the privilege of cutting his hair, not once, but twice. He also had another memorable moment when he was stationed in the Philippines and stood a mere ten feet from General Douglas MacArthur. Ken was aboard the first ship that brought food and supplies to Nagasaki after the city was bombed during WWII. During the Korean War, he was aboard a ship that shelled North Korea. During the Vietnam War, his ship patrolled the beaches and ports.
After ten years as a barber, Ken began working as a storekeeper and then served as a yeoman. He was stationed in Pearl Harbor during the last few years of his career. Here, he served as a manager for the enlisted and officers’ clubs. In 1965, he retired as a Chief Petty Officer (CPO) after earning ten ribbons and six medals for his successful Navy career.
He began a civilian career in security work after his retirement. For one security detail he was assigned to escort Dolly Parton from her hotel to her venue backstage where she was performing. He also met Hugh Hefner when he was given a detail to guard his plane for three days. According to Ken, Mr. Hefner was very gracious and allowed him to sit anywhere he wanted to watch TV on the plane. Around 1971, Ken was living around the Orlando, Florida area when Walt Disney World opened. He worked as a security guard at the resort for about five months. He remembers how the highways surrounding the park stayed backed up for months. Ken’s love for Disney parks began when he was stationed in Long Beach, California and made two trips to Disneyland. He’s been to Disney World countless times.
Ken has always loved to travel. Throughout his lifetime, he has been to every U.S. state except Vermont. He has resided in nine of these states and also lived in Canada. One of his favorite ways to travel is by Amtrak. Some of his fondest memories were sitting aboard the train in the morning and looking out the window as he enjoyed bacon, toast, and coffee. Always comfortable at sea, he has also enjoyed over 40 cruises.
Back when Ken was in WWII, he married his sweetheart, Ruth. They had one child who eventually made them proud grandparents to one grandson. The couple was happily married for 22 years until Ruth sadly passed away. Their son, Stan, is also a retired Navy CPO and enjoys collecting military uniforms. Each year, Ken and Stan don vintage uniforms and march in local veterans parades.
Years ago, one of Ken’s Navy friends told him about the Naval Home in Gulfport, Mississippi. At the time he was still married so he was not interested. After losing Ruth, he moved into the home and lived on the 11th floor. About one month before Hurricane Katrina, he decided to move out. A few years after the storm he heard that AFRH-G was being rebuilt with much nicer, larger rooms so he put his application in right away. He has been back at AFRH-G for at least five years. Nowadays, he enjoys attending movies in the theater and being a member of the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA). He also has the chance to enjoy yardwork when he spends time with a nearby friend. AFRH-G is honored to have this WWII, Korean, and Vietnam veteran among its heroes.