Memorial pays homage to fallen prison guards
It was a terrible Father's Day.
On Thursday, May 4, Henry E. Kenaga recalled the day his father, Henry M. Kenaga, was killed in the line of duty at Kansas State Penitentiary, now Lansing Correctional Facility.
The Kenagas had moved to Lansing from Pittsburg during the Great Depression so the elder Henry could work at the prison. He was a corrections officer in the prison yard.
"The prison at that time gave a lot of men good jobs," said Mary Ellen Kenaga, Henry E.'s wife.
Henry M. Kenaga had worked at the prison since 1939. Sunday, June 20, 1954, would have been his day off, but he took a shift for a co-worker.
That day, he encountered six armed inmates attempting to escape. The inmates had made guns in the maintenance shop using 5/8-inch bolts and .22 caliber bullets that had been smuggled into the prison, according to prison records.
The inmates had at least six hostages as shields. When Kenaga tried to stop the inmates, they shot him.
Kenaga was 58 years when he was killed and left his wife and two sons, Bill and Henry.
Henry E. Kenaga told his father's story after a memorial service at the prison on Thursday. The ceremony was part of the prison's observance of Corrections Officer Week.
Kenaga and six other employees killed at the prison were honored at the ceremony:
¢ William Owens, corrections officer, died Oct. 6, 1905, a day after an inmate assaulted him in an escape attempt.
¢ David Burns, records clerk and parole officer, died Dec. 15, 1923, after being shot four times by an escaped convict whom he was trying to catch and return to Lansing.
¢ Don Martin, corrections officer, died Aug. 14, 1978, five days after an inmate assault.
¢ Burch Slote, food supervisor, died July 6, 1980, when he was attacked by three inmates who were stealing food.
¢ Sgt. Robert Hurd died Oct. 11, 1981, when an inmate attacked him with a homemade knife.
¢ Mark Avery, corrections officer, died May 23, 1993, a day after he and other officers were attacked by inmates with barbells, weights and pool cues.