“It’s not the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man.” Change it to “woman” and that quote is perfect for Leah Kenney. Her story is one of triumph over trouble. Now 88, she still has a fiery, kind and absolutely engaging way about her and an intense maternal instinct that is as strong now as ever.
By Hallie BluntSpecial to the Herald TimesRANGELY I “It’s not the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man.” Change it to “woman” and that quote is perfect for Leah Kenney. Her story is one of triumph over trouble. Now 88, she still has a fiery, kind and absolutely engaging way about her and an intense maternal instinct that is as strong now as ever.She grew up in Powell Park with the Bambricks, her maternal grandparents. Her father took Leah and her newborn sister to live with them after their mother died in childbirth. The Bambricks had eight boys and three girls when Leah and her sister joined the family. Later, Leah moved to town to attend school in Meeker. She married Jim Kenney during her junior year in high school. The couple had five children: Mary, John, Jim, Bill and Zuba. The family lived on a ranch about 15 miles from Rangely on the White River. Leah had many jobs while the children were little. She cleaned 40 houses in and around Rangely, walking to all of them. She never learned to drive but that didn’t seem to slow her down for many years. She remembers “the good old days” when lessons like telling the truth were part of growing up. Once she sent her husband out to find the kids and he came back into the house alone. She asked where the children were and he said, “Outside with my cigarettes.” When they came in Jim asked them to sit down and tell who took the cigarettes. None of the children ‘fessed-up until they learned they would all go without dinner if they didn’t confess. “The kids all started talking,” Leah said. “And the truth came out. The kids just learned to tell the truth.”She had another baby every two years for 10 years. “Just as things started to quiet down, the sound of a new baby would come along.” They had a girl first and a girl last. She said it was a pleasant feeling at the birth of her youngest when the doctor didn’t say, “You have another good-looking boy, Jim.” Having a houseful of kids made for constant entertainment.Leah enjoys playing Bingo and her two boys fight over the peanut sack prizes. Recently, Leah had won all but one game and one son asked if he could have them (her prizes) and she replied, “If you can whip your brother, you can have the whole pile.”She lights up when she talks about each of them. Today, she has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren and is very proud of their accomplishments. Three of her children and most of their children still live in the area, her youngest daughter lives in Denver. Leah’s children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren visit frequently and share their stories with her, keeping her up to date on their happenings. She glows when she talks about the pictures on her wall. Some are of her bull riding great-grandson, some are of her 80th birthday party and others are newspaper clippings about her family. She is so proud of her children, and proud of the fact “she raised them and they will be her kids until the day she dies.” If that means standing up for them, bragging about them or even checking up on them, Leah still considers that her job.Though her body has yielded to time, her mind has not. She is still sharp and certainly has a sense of humor that is as young as ever. During our interview, she teased the nurses on staff and winked while they thought of their response. Her little frame is not indicative of her big heart. Leah Kenney has lived a life that only a truly strong woman could survive and she has done it with a sense of humor and loyalty that remains strong even after 88 years.