Mark Kettlewell, 61, passed away Thursday, February 4, 2021, at the Wayne T. Patrick Hospice House in Rock Hill, South Carolina, after a courageous 7-month battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Mark was the beloved husband of Jeanette Lynn Wilkes Kettlewell and proud father of Ellen Claire Kettlewell.
Mark and his younger twin Matthew were born on March 6, 1959, in New Martinsville, West Virginia, to the late William Dickerson Kettlewell, Jr., and Anna Mary Turbanic Kettlewell. It would be hard to write about Mark without including Matt. The boys were the youngest of the five Kettlewell children, with older sisters Georgiana, Sandra, and Rosemary. Mark and Matt, otherwise known as “The Kettlewell Boys,” were inseparable and infamous in their younger years and enjoyed biking and running around the neighborhood, playing sandlot football and baseball, Little League baseball, fishing in and boating on the Ohio River a few blocks from the house, and getting into mischief with their many friends. They hunted together and with friends, and they trapped rabbits to sell for pocket money, running the traplines before and after school.
Mark (and Matt) graduated from Magnolia High School in 1977. Mark was a hard worker and held a number of labor-intense jobs before starting college and between terms. He worked as a laborer at an aluminum reduction plant right out of high school. He had scars on his chest from molten aluminum spattering on and burning through the several layers of shirts he wore as protection from the extreme heat. He also worked as a high-pressure water blaster, cleaning pipes, condensers, and storage tanks at a chemical manufacturing facility. For nearly two years, he worked as a laborer in the United Mine Workers Union, and was usually assigned the most unpleasant jobs—such as standing in cold, knee-deep water shoveling coal sludge from beneath a conveyor belt into rail cars for an 8-hour shift— because he would do them without question. He earned good money as a coal miner, often working extra shifts, to his mother’s dismay. During that time, Mark was able to purchase various cars, a motorcycle, a leaky cabin cruiser, and a ski boat. He spent much of his spare time sailing, cruising, or skiing on the Ohio River with his brother and friends. He mowed grass and washed and waxed airplanes at the local grass airstrip just below the house in exchange for ground school and flying lessons. He enjoyed attending the annual Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Mark attended West Virginia University in the Fall of 1977, and later earned his Associate and Bachelor of Engineering Technology degrees in Surveying from West Virginia Institute of Technology (WVIT). Mark worked as a land surveyor for a coal company and later for Carrouth & Associates in Richmond, Virginia. While laying out engineering designs, he decided that he could do just as well, if not better, and returned to WVIT, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
It was during this time that he met his future wife, Jeanette Lynn Wilkes, who was also studying Civil Engineering. Mark was encouraged by a mutual friend to ask her out, and from that first date in September, 1987, they were inseparable. They became engaged on Valentine’s Day 1988, and married on August 20, 1988, after they had both finished their coursework. They moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where Jeanette was already working while living with her parents, and where he had vowed he would never live. Mark worked for Fred Wilson and Associates, where he assisted in the design and plan preparation of the $88.2 million St. Elmo Acosta Bridge replacement project over the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville.
After visiting his sister Rosie and her husband Stan in Charlotte, N.C., they decided to apply for employment in the area. Both Mark and Jeanette were hired by Williams Engineering, Inc., in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in March 1989. They learned a great deal while working on many engineering and surveying projects, earned their professional licenses (Land Surveyor and Engineer for Mark and Engineer for Jeanette), and developed many lasting personal and professional relationships during their years at Williams Engineering. On Thanksgiving Day 1995, they moved to Newark, Ohio, to be closer to Mark’s mother. His father had passed away on May 9. Both Mark and Jeanette had been hired by Jobes Henderson & Associates, Inc., in Newark. Mark served as a project manager for a private development design section where he worked on various land development and utilities projects.
Mark and Jeanette never felt at home in Newark and missed Rock Hill, so they returned in October 1996. Mark had been hired as Director of Engineering by Power Engineering Company in Charlotte and worked there until June 1997. At that time, he accepted a proposal from former Williams Engineering boss William Armstrong to join him as a junior partner in the new company he had formed, Armstrong Glen, PC. Mark worked as vice president and project manager, overseeing and mentoring other project managers, young designers, and small survey crews, as well as doing design work himself. He expanded his engineering experience and learned a lot about running a business. Daughter Ellen Claire was born in December 1999, and Mark continued to work long hours. As Ellen grew, Mark desired to spend more time with his family. He resigned his position in December 2005 and went to work as the County Engineer for York County.
Working for York County allowed Mark to serve the public while managing five divisions of the Engineering Department. He learned a tremendous amount working in the public sector and was responsible for Engineering Water and Sewer Utilities, Environmental Compliance, Engineering Transportation, Capital Facility, and the “Pennies for Progress” Program. Mark was with York County until August 2013, when he accepted a position with the City of Rock Hill in the Utilities Department.
Mark ultimately became the City of Rock Hill’s Director of Water and Sewer Utilities, responsible for all aspects of those systems, including numerous large capital projects. He appreciated all those who worked in his department, especially those who took on more and more of his responsibilities as time went on. He enjoyed serving the public and worked throughout his illness until early January.
Not only did Mark work hard, but he played hard, too. In the small amount of free time he had, Mark enjoyed outdoor activities with his family, watching Ellen playing various sports, traveling, woodworking, working in the yard, sailing with the Sandridges, and kayaking with his friends. Mark introduced Ellen to swimming, sailing, rafting, kayaking, water skiing, snow skiing, flying, hiking, and mountain biking. As she grew older and more skilled, Mark found it harder to keep up with her. It was usually Ellen in the lead on the ski slopes, where more often than not she would head down a black diamond slope, and Mark had no choice but to follow her down. He would be ready to call it a day, but she’d always want to go “just two more times.”
Brother Matt had introduced him to whitewater kayaking, and he became an avid paddler with quite a collection of boats, paddles, and gear. After the US National Whitewater Center opened, he received an annual pass for Christmas every year. He enjoyed paddling all over the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic region with friends. His favorite rivers and creeks included the Gauley and New Rivers in West Virginia, the Youghiogheny River in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and Wilson Creek in North Carolina. Mark treasured his time on the river with his brother and kayaking buddies, especially the annual Gauley trip in September/October. It broke his heart not to be able to paddle with them in the fall.
While Mark loved kayaking whitewater rivers, he also loved introducing youngsters to rafting and kayaking on tamer rivers, such as the Tuckaseegee and Nantahala Rivers in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and the Catawba River in Rock Hill. Every summer for many years Mark and family joined other friends and families in the Cherokee area to camp and paddle. Some of the adults had not been on rivers before, either, and Mark thoroughly enjoyed teaching them and their kids what he knew. Mark also taught many adults and kids how to roll kayaks at the Rock Hill Aquatic Center, along with friend Chris Jackson, who had initiated the annual mountain trips.
Mark was a good and humble man who preferred working in the background and disliked public attention. He loved mentoring and sharing his knowledge, whether it was about engineering, woodworking, home repair, or kayaking. He had a ready smile and was loved by all who knew him. He would do anything for anyone, and could be counted upon to lend a hand or tools to anyone who needed help. Mark’s friends were often recruited to help him with projects, and they soon learned that they were in for a workout. Mark didn’t know when to quit— he worked hard and expected everyone else to, also.
Mark loved his siblings and extended family and looked forward to the bi-annual Kettlewell siblings’ reunion, which is a weeklong gathering, usually in a West Virginia state park. The family enjoys playing 500 Bid, pickleball, and board and lawn games; hiking, biking, rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, and sharing evening meals together. This year Mark will be missed tremendously.
Mark leaves behind to cherish his memory his devoted wife Jeanette Lynn and “favorite” daughter and sports buddy Ellen Claire; sisters Georgiana Kurtz (Terry), Sandra Behrens (Steve), Rosie Huffman (Stan); brother Matt Kettlewell (Kelly); nieces Teresa Kurtz (Jonathan Myers), Anne Behrens (sons Brandon and Joshua), Sarah Kettlewell Blanchard (James), Allison Huffman Raymond (Mike), Jennifer Huffman, Katherine Kettlewell Hamilton (David), Madison Oxley, and Alyssa Wilkes; nephews Scott Behrens (daughter Samantha), Matt Kettlewell (fiancée Amanda Bilau, her daughter Annabella, and their daughter Kailana), and Drew Oxley; in-laws Ernie and Patty Wilkes, Kim Wilkes Oxley (Delbert), and Randy Wilkes (Frankie); and many cousins and friends.
Many thanks to all the family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers who supported Mark and Jeanette throughout his illness with food, yard work, errands, personal assistance, and moral support. Thank you to their employers, the City of Rock Hill and the Town of Fort Mill, who allowed them to work from home where it was safe and where Jeanette could care for Mark.
In lieu of flowers, it was Mark’s desire for people to invest in a child. To honor Mark’s request and to continue his legacy of teaching children the activities he so enjoyed, we would like to suggest donating to the Rock Hill Parks Foundation Fund, designating monies to go toward scholarships for youth to attend Environmental & Nature Based Educational Programs (Outdoor Recreation: Paddling, Cycling & Hiking Programs, Rock Climbing & Adventure Camps). Donations can be made online here: https://www.fftc.org/donate/rock_hill_parks_foundation_fund. Specify the designation, in Memory of Mark Kettlewell, in the comments section. Donations by check can be mailed to Rock Hill Parks Foundation, P. O. Box 11706, Rock Hill, SC 29731. Specify the designation, In Memory of Mark Kettlewell, in the Memo line. Another option for donations is to Hospice & Community Care, 2275 India Hook Road, Rock Hill, SC 29732. The nurses, staff, and administrators cared compassionately for Mark and Jeanette during his short time there, and for that the family expresses its sincere gratitude.
Because of the pandemic, a celebration of life will be held at a later date when it is safe to do so.
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