June 22, 1926 — February 8, 2019
SCHENECTADY — Kenneth C. Canary, 92, passed away peacefully in his sleep early Friday morning, Feb. 8, 2019 at Kingsway Community in Schenectady, where he and his wife, Phyllis, had been residents since July.
Ken was born on the Route 29 Canary Farm, June 22, 1926, to Clayton and Estella Miller Canary. He was the fourth of eight children, all of whom formed close life long bonds with each other, working and growing up on the farm together. Ken attended elementary school at the Frank’s District School House on what is now Progress Road. He graduated from Broadalbin High School in 1944. While in high school, he started buying, repairing and selling used cars and used parts (a good move due to new cars not being built and new parts not being available during WWII).
Ken caught the attention of the owner of an Esso Gas Station in Johnstown, when he was able to correct an engine issue on a customer’s car that none of his gas station mechanics had been able to figure out. He offered young Ken a job at his gas station and Ken agreed to move his repair business out of the barn on the farm, so long as he could sell his used cars at the gas station. It was during this time that Ken regularly rode his 1931 Indian Scout Motorcycle.
Eventually, the station became Canary Bros. Esso when Ken’s brother, Warren, joined him in business. Ken married his childhood sweetheart, Phyllis Crannell, on June 5, 1948 at Broadalbin Baptist Church, the church they both had grown up in. They moved into an upstairs flat on East Clinton Street in Johnstown and ran the gas station and used car business until 1950. At that time, Ken’s brother, Warren, became a dairy farmer, the station was sold and the repair business was moved back to Route 29. Ken and Phyllis built the original portion of what would be their home there for the next 68 years. By 1952, Ken and Phyllis were parents of Lynda and Lois and became the local John Deere Dealer. They turned one end of the basement of their home into a parts department and the other end into a repair shop garage.
Eventually, the business was moved to a new building next door. In 1958, the family welcomed another daughter, Laurie. Ken and Phyllis founded Capital Tractor in 1966 and welcomed son, Keith, in 1967. In 1969, K C Canary opened in Clifton Park and in 1981 in Fultonville. Eventually, other partners joined the business and expansion/mergers took place resulting in additional K C Canary locations in Beacon, Schroon Lake, Plattsburgh and Gouverneur.
Today three of the K C Canary industrial locations survive as Nortrax Equipment locations. Ken was one of the original partners in the formation of The Hudson River Tractor Company, which has locations in Fultonville, Goshen, Chatham, Clifton Park and Schaghticoke. He was recognized at various times throughout the years by Deere & Company as being a major contributor to their success in the Northeast due to his commitment to their complete product line and taking care of customers. An annual “John Deere Day,” where customer’s were treated to a nice meal, door prizes and movies was a tradition held for many years at Broadalbin High School. This tradition continues at Hudson River Tractor each March. An extremely humble man, Ken took great joy in quietly helping others and giving people a chance to excel.
Throughout Ken’s life, he was an active member of his local church; he and Phyllis were members of Broadalbin Baptist Church for many years then Perth Bible Church most recently until his health started to become an issue. Ken served on the Board of Directors at Sacandaga Bible Conference from 1961 until just recently. He was an accomplished pilot, first flying an Aeronica Champ in the 1950s then graduating to a Cessna 172 that he flew from 1962 to 2009. That plane now lives on being used to train Missionary and Relief Pilots preparing for service around the globe. Ken recently had the opportunity to go for a ride in his old Cessna when it was back in the area and was tickled beyond belief to be back in the air. His interest in aviation had been sparked when he was taken to the 1939 New York World’s Fair by an aunt and uncle. As a 12 year old boy, this was his first time away from the farm and gave him a glimpse into the world outside of Fulton County and all new technology of the day.
In the latter years of his life, Ken started to put together a collection of John Deere Two Cylinder Tractors and memorabilia. For many years, his two cylinder tractors were a favorite attraction at the Fonda Fair and other area vintage tractor shows. Ken was a member of the Coons Hollow Engine Club and has hosted their annual show at his museum for many years each July. Ken is believed to have been the only original Amphicar owner in existence, still owning the 1966 Amphibious car he had purchased new. Ken and Phyllis enjoyed a ride on the Mohawk Rover in it just within the past two years.
Ken is survived by his wife of over 70 years, Phyllis Crannell Canary; daughter, Lynda Naske (Bob) of Johnstown; daughter, Lois Wager (Michael) of Broadalbin; daughter, Laurie Frederick (Tom) of Northville; and son, Keith (Kelly) of Vail Mills. Kenneth had eight grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson. He is also survived by his younger sister, Marilyn Ottendorf (Doug) of Kokomo, Indiana; and 22 nieces and nephews. Family reunions each summer for both sides of the family were always a highlight for Ken.
Ken was predeceased by his infant brother, Merrill, in 1928; then more recently, his younger twin sisters, Eileen Minkler and Arlene Mac Vean; older sister, Shirley Rose; older brothers, Warren and Donald; and son-in-law, Bill Dmyszewicz.
Calling hours will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Perth Bible Church, 1863 Co Hwy 107, Amsterdam, followed by a celebration of life memorial service at 6 p.m.
Memorial contributions can be made to Sacandaga Bible Conference, 191 Lakeview Road, Broadalbin, NY 12025.