F3c Kenneth Howard Keniston,
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F3c Kenneth Howard Keniston
Sailor Kenneth Howard Keniston sent a telegram to his mother on June 20, 1941 imploring her to stop his younger brother, Donald, from enlisting.
“Mom, please keep Don home for God’s sake don’t let him come He doesn’t know what he’s getting into,” the Western Union message said.
Three days later Donald Lee Keniston enlisted. He was 17 and had just graduated from high school.
He joined his brother’s ship, the U.S.S. Arizona, in September. Less than three months later, on Dec. 7, both Kenistons were killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Kenneth was a fireman third class. Donald was a seaman second class.
The brothers grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kenneth was born Dec. 14, 1922 and Donald on April 26, 1924. Their parents, Howard and Bernette, divorced and the boys lived with their mother. In a 1974 interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer she recalled that “Ken was a whiz on electrical things and ‘anything he did, Don wanted to do.’ “
Kenneth graduated from Electrical High School in 1940 and enlisted on Nov. 27, 1940.
The brothers were altar boys at St. Augustine Church. They were honored at a Mass in February 1942 at St. Boniface Church and at a memorial service at the Wade Street Boys’ Club that spring as part of the opening of softball season. The Kenistons had been members.
In that newspaper interview 33 years after the attack, Bernette said she attended Mass every day except a few times when she was sick or the weather was bad. “It’s something I want to do and it has pulled me through,” she said.
Their father was an Army corporal in World War I. He was a bus driver when he enlisted in the Navy in February 1943. A brief news story in April said he was training at Camp Peary, Virginia. He was released from service in June 1943. He lived to age 90 and is buried at Mount Washington Cemetery east of Cincinnati where there are cenotaphs for his sons.
Sources: The Cincinnati Enquirer; Remembrance magazine; Census; Navy muster rolls; VA death file; Ohio birth and death records; Mount Washington Cemetery markers in Cincinnati. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.