Kenneth James ("Kenny") Reed, owner of Design Images in Madison, was known to many as "the sign man," having created and installed signs throughout the region for more than 30 years.
At the time of his death in November at the age of 53, a good many people proudly declared that they had "Kenny Reed signs" inside and outside their homes and/or businesses. Having a Kenny Reed sign was a mark of distinction, and now their signs would serve as their souvenirs of a good friend and a good man.
His artistry in sign-making became, in fact, the central point of "The Sign Man's" formal eulogy at his funeral service.
My husband Bob and I are among the many people who can say we have a sign by Kenny. He crafted a sign as a gift for our front entry 15 years ago. Not long after that, he gifted me with a sign from his former shop by the tracks in Painesville, because he knew I admired the steam engine he had painted on that sign. More than a decade ago, he appeared at our house with an engraved stone marker for the grave of our beloved doberman, Lady, who had just been buried on our property. And for our surprise Golden Anniversary party, he created ALL the signs... from the signs that greeted us when we arrived... to the durable outdoor mural that was an oversized copy of our wedding photo.
We first met Kenny many years ago; he had become a friend of our eldest son. Over the years since then, he became a friend of our entire family, and we would see him often. We always enjoyed our conversations with him.
We knew him long enough and well enough to know for sure that, although he was famous for his signs, his true personal hallmark was his kindness and concern for others. He was a man of sensitivity toward the needs of others; a man who just seemed to enjoy being helpful to people.
So much so that, when calling hours began for Reed at Spear Mulqueeny Funeral Home in Painesville, the steady stream of mourners began immediately; and that great show of respect continued without let-up into the 2 p.m. funeral service.
People of all ages and from all walks of life shared among themselves their individual remembrances of "the sign man's" quiet, everyday kindness.
It soon became clear that his good deeds had been many and varied... ranging from the mundane (installing a tractor seat after seeing that a neighbor of a friend was having trouble accomplishing that task) to the magnificent (creating and installing a grave marker privately and free of charge, after hearing that one was needed for the burial spot of a young man whose mother could not yet afford one).
In the conversations before his service, it also became evident that Kenny Reed had extended his kindness to friends and strangers alike; to people he had known for years; or people he had met only briefly; or even people he had heard about but never met at all.
My husband Bob and I share the sadness of the many people who have found it hard to say goodbye; and harder yet to realize he will no longer be among us in this world.
Rest in peace, Kenny Reed. Your many friends will not forget you.