The feedback we get from our book, “The Story of Kennett- Shaping the Future One Child at a Time” is often about how readers enjoyed the stories of the kids that were shaped by the Kennett experience. But those were all recent examples. Today, let's go back a bit in time. In fact, let's go back to a young Jewish kid, born in 1921, who came here with his family from Wilmington in the 1920’s when he was about six.
He lived above his father’s hardware store, went to Kennett schools and graduated with the Class of 1938. (He also made the famous walk from the old school to the new school, financed by Pierre DuPont, the owner of Longwood Gardens). He graduated from the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry and was subsequently drafted into the Army Air Corps during World War II.
He married and started up his practice as a Doctor of Optometry on State Street. Then, he and his wife Marcy had a son that would follow in his father’s footsteps. Kennett would know these two pillars of the community to be Drs Leonard and Barry Kanofsky.
There is so much to share about their participation in Kennett’s success.
Optometry is not just for people who need glasses. Optometrists are skilled in catching early cases of tumors and eye disease that can lead to blindness. Dr. Leonard Kanofsky was one of the great civic leaders of Kennett Square. During his lifetime, Leonard was President of Kennett Rotary, he was a founder of the Senior Center, and a great advocate for affordable housing.
Leonard was awarded the Outstanding Citizen of the Year for Southern Chester County in January of 1979. His son, Barry, carried on the family tradition, graduating from Kennett High School in 1965, then went on to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce, the Senior Center board and Kennett Rotary.
One of his great contributions was hiring and training local folks to work in his office. These ranged from professional techs to young high school students, like my daughter Susan, who learned the discipline of a first job. It helped her when she went off to Penn State.
She got a job in an optometrist office after college and before marriage and graduate school. I’ve been told that one of the greatest contributions to success in life is having a good job in high school. My daughter earned her MFA from Columbia and currently works for a major movie studio in CA.
I interviewed Barry last week about downtown Kennett and Bobby Burton’s Barbershop and asked him about his experience growing up in Kennett. He had nothing but fond memories about the town and how it was always there for him. He mentioned his friends and that once in college, he was having trouble with calculus, which did not come naturally to him.
A friend from high school, David Meadows, tutored him one summer so that he could get through his courses and get his Doctor of Optometry. My daughter Susan says Kennett reminds her of the movie Toy Story; "You've Got a Friend in Me."
In 1992 Barry was recognized as Citizen of the year, by the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce- like father like son
There is a culture of giving back to the community in Kennett and Barry mentioned that he was on a task force for the revitalization of Kennett. This was back when Kennett was on a downhill slide and he imagined that one day the town would just be the Library and the Post Office.
The task force of Scudder Stevens, Donna Hood, Jeff Norman and himself cosigned for a building that would house the United Way and Historic Kennett on State Street. The rest is history as today the borough and surrounding communities are on a growth spurt that is more than just “up-town”. We now have an expanding “down-town” moving out to the New Garden Shopping Center.
"The Story of Kennett – Shaping the future one child at a time" Bob George and Joan Holliday's book on Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.