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Elks honoring former leader with parade

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Photos of Kenneth Littell and his wife Mary along with his Honorable Discharge papers from the Navy in 1945. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Each year for decades, Kenneth Littell and fellow members of Albuquerque Elks Lodge 461 have gathered on Memorial Day at Fairview Memorial Park Cemetery to remember comrades who are no longer with them.

The event at the Elks Rest part of the cemetery, where between 50 and 60 deceased members of the organization are interred, is a special one for the former exalted ruler, who is now 98. He wrote the memorial that is recited each year by his successors in leadership.

He wasn’t going to be participating this year because of his frail health.

And the COVID-19 pandemic will keep the organization from having a large gathering, so the Elks have decided to bring the ceremony to him.

“My heart told me we needed to honor him,” current Exalted Ruler Pat Shepardson said.

Kenneth Littell

He’ll be watching from the front porch of his home on Kriss Place in the northeast part of town as a parade of Model Ts and vehicles driven by his fellow Elks pass by, and the memorial that he penned during his time as exalted ruler in 1977-78 will be recited, according to longtime friend Vance East.

“He’s going to notice a group of Elks dignified, wearing uniforms like they did in the old days, with the jewels on,” Shepardson said.

“I think he’ll be very, very moved and very touched,” Littell’s daughter Barbi Cappel said.

She said Memorial Day is always special to her father with the combination of the military history in his family – he is a World War II U.S. Navy veteran – and with his history with the Elks.

East said Littell wanted to find a way to pay homage to the members who are laid to rest in the plot at the cemetery, especially for those who no longer had family around, which led to the writing of the memorial. Members whose remains are cremated are buried in urns at the site. Lodge members clean up and maintain the site.

Littell’s impact on the Elks goes a little deeper than coming up with a way to honor deceased members on Memorial Day.

Pat Shepardson, exalted ruler of Elks Lodge No. 461 in Albuquerque, talks about the drive-by celebration they will be doing for former exalted ruler and Navy veteran Kenneth Littell this Memorial Day. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“He joined Elks when I was very young,” his daughter said. “He jumped in with both feet.”

He joined the lodge’s clowns group. He performed magic tricks. Littell found the organization to be a good fit for the unicycle group he belonged to.

“He did a lot of philanthropy for the kids, not just in Albuquerque, but all over the state,” Shepardson said.

His unicycle group performed for about 30 years, his daughter said, participating in parades, hospital benefits, children’s events and visiting senior citizens homes.

“He did about six or seven events a month,” his daughter said.

The clowns unit he was in performed around the state during the Christmas holidays, Cappel and East said, in Las Cruces, Silver City, Farmington, Santa Fe, Fort Stanton and Fort Bayard.

“He’s a very special man,” East said.

“He’s a spirited man, full of life,” Shepardson said. “Always laughing. Always cracking a joke.”

Littell grew up in Indiana and moved West after he served in the Navy. His daughter said he caught malaria while serving in the South Pacific as a pharmacist mate.

“He wanted to move away from humid places,” Cappel said.

He ended up in Colorado, but moved his family to Albuquerque from Colorado Springs in 1959 when he transferred as an employee of Gate City Steel.

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