Community reacts to Wayne Kernodle's passing

People who knew Wayne Kernodle remembered him rather simply: He was a good man who loved his wife and his life.

“If you met him, you knew he was like a big bear,” said Carl Brown, who met Kernodle in 1991 after moving to Williamsburg to retire from the nation’s capital. “He is a man who always seemed pretty happy.”

Kernodle, who passed March 24 at 100 years old, met Brown just as he and his wife Ruth were starting the Christopher Wren Association for Lifelong Learning, which has held classes for adults in the area since 1991.

“He really loved Ruth, and you could tell,” Brown said. On Feb. 22, the two celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.

Education was a passion of Kernodle’s far before the early 1990s — he spent the bulk of his life in the classroom.

The College of William and Mary hired Kernodle in 1945 to teach sociology and anthropology. He became an emeritus professor of sociology at the college.

“Professor Kernodle was the first professor hired at William & Mary after World War II, and he set a high standard for excellence and selfless service,” said W&M President Taylor Reveley. “Over four decades, he taught generations of students, published widely, was instrumental in adding anthropology to our curriculum and launched a faculty lunch group that continues.”

Don Darnton knew of Wayne Kernodle in 1945. A William and Mary alumnus, Darnton’s fraternity brother played on the tennis team Kernodle coached.

“I don’t know if he knew who I was, but I knew who he was,” he said. “At the time, he was a relatively young faculty member.”

One little known fact, he said, is Kernodle enjoyed tennis and coached it at William and Mary. His son is a former professional tennis player, he said.

“Wayne, as well, helped rebuild athletics after a difficult period in W&M’s varsity life, and he coached men’s varsity tennis,” Reveley said.

Darnton spent his career in higher education. When he returned to Williamsburg in 1997, he and Kernodle worked with the Christopher Wren Association. A former president of the association, Darnton said he owes his involvement to Kernodle and his wife for starting the group.

“If it wasn’t for them, I would have probably never even heard of the thing,” he said.

A Greenboro, N.C., native, Kernodle was an avid supporter of basketball at the University of North Carolina.

In 2015, Kernodle and his daughter Kay Loveland co-authored “The Last of the Rugged Individualists,” which inlcudes stories about hermits Kernodle met while living in the mountains of North Carolina for three decades.

“I remember him taking us out to play tennis all the time,” she said. “He was really an interesting man. The thing was, he was still coherent even in his old age. He’s been an excellent father, and I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else.”

“It need hardly be said how much Wayne will be missed,” Reveley said.

Kernodle is survived by his wife Ruth, his son, Michael, his daughter in law Lou Ann, his daughter Kathryn, grandaughter Abby and great-grandson Rylyn.

His funeral will take place at 2 p.m. on March 30 in the Williamsburg Landing Retirement Center.

Contributions can be made to the to the R. Wayne Kernodle Endowment Fund in the Department of Sociology at William & Mary, or to the Ruth and Wayne Kernodle Endowment Fund of the Christopher Wren Association.

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

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