February 6, 2017 — SEAFOOD NEWS — Kenelm W. Coons passed away on Friday, February 3, 2017 after a three-month illness. Ken will be deeply missed for his kindness, compassion, and humor. He was a great listener and gifted story teller with an inquisitive spirit, keen mind and quick wit.
Ken was a well known advocate for US seafood.
After graduating from Harvard College (A.B. ’53), he served for two years of active duty in West Germany. He then began his professional career, embarking on a series of packaged goods marketing positions, including introducing General Foods’ Cool Whip desserts.
He later moved to the mid-Atlantic and worked marketing Doxsee clam products, which introduced him to the seafood industry He then worked for a diversified fish and shellfish company in Rhode Island. After earning a Master’s in Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island in 1978, he was named Executive Director of the recently formed Rhode Island Seafood Council. Two years later, he helped found and was named the Executive Director of the New England Fisheries Development Foundation, later renamed the New England Fisheries Development Association (NEFDA). He held this position in Boston for two decades.
Ken was one of John Sackton’s mentors in the Seafood Industry. “Ken hired me as program director for the New England Fisheries Development Foundation, which was my second job in the seafood industry after leaving the same Marine Affairs program at URI,” said Sackton.
While at NEFDA Ken partnered with the Canadian Consulate in Boston to found the Boston Seafood Show. That show was eventually sold to Diversified Communications after the Foundation felt professional management was needed.
NEFDA also ran a popular Fish School for a national audience aimed at educating new seafood buyers. Gene Connors, who became the seafood guru for Hallsmith Sysco in New England, was a New Bedford Fisherman who led the quality training at the fish school.
NEFDA was chosen by FDA and USDC for a trial project to introduce the HACCP system of sanitation and, with Saltonstall-Kennedy Funds, focused on promoting under-utilized species, utilization of fish waste, and programs to enhance seafood quality. The Foundation ran a series of quality improvement projects for ground fish in New England, including an attempt to introduce European style boxes for holding and offloading cod and flatfish in New Bedford.
Other initiatives included developing a domestic market for Rhode Island-caught Loligo squid and establishing the hagfish fishery in Gloucester, MA.
Ken was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to the National Fish and Seafood Promotion Council and was elected its first chairman. At this time he was also named Man of the Year by the National Fisheries Institute (NFI). Ken firmly believed that the seafood industry needed generic marketing programs, and championed such programs in Washington DC.
Ken was a frequent spokesperson for the seafood industry in broadcast and print media.
After he retired, and John Sackton founded SeafoodNews, Ken became an associate Editor.
“I have enjoyed working with Ken immensely over the years”, said Sackton. “He was unfailingly optimistic and had an extremely broad range of seafood interests. He also loved to cook seafood, and we would often exchange recipes and compare our various dishes and how we cooked. Ken brought me back a specialty whole fish poacher from Paris after one trip, for example.”
Ken was friends with both George Berkowitz, the Founder of Legal Seafoods, and Julia Child, whose hugely popular cooking shows educated a generation of Americans about French cuisine.
“One of the wonderful things Ken did was arrange for Julia Child to come teach a cooking class on fish to the NFI Future Leaders group that was meeting in Boston”, said Sackton. “Ken arranged the whole thing at the BU Culinary School. It was a wonderful evening for the 20 NFI Future Leaders who cooked an entire seafood meal in a commercial kitchen with such a famous culinary star.”
Ken always kept an eye on menu trends especially as they related to seafood, and enjoyed writing about chefs and culinary tastes.
After Ken retired, he joined SeafoodNews as an Associate Editor. Sackton said “it was truly a gift that in the last 13 years Ken was able to contribute to SeafoodNews. His broad experience, commitment to the industry, and wide range of seafood interests was a perfect fit. When we first started, it was just Ken and myself doing all the writing and editing,” said Sackton.
Moving to Annapolis in 2004, Ken and his wife Deborah enjoyed a decade of cruising Chesapeake Bay aboard their aptly named Bristol 29.9 Loligo.
Ken was also thrilled when one of his sons, Chris, became the US Senator from Delaware. As a professional journalist, Ken joined the National Press Club in Washington DC, and served on one of their scholarship committees. Ken was always a supporter of younger journalists, and took an especially helpful role with new hires for SeafoodNews. He maintained an active interest in international affairs and domestic politics as well as the food world. He introduced all of his grandchildren to his love of seafood and sailing.
Ken was born July 5, 1931, in Cambridge, MA, the son of the late Quentin L. and Persis (Wallace) Coons. In addition to his wife Deborah, Ken leaves three sons, Thomas W. Coons (Jeanne) of Newark, DE, Sen. Christopher A. Coons (Annie) of Wilmington, DE, and Stephen K. Coons of Annapolis, MD; daughter, Lisa Griffith-Fintl (Helmuth) of Oestrich-Winkel, Germany; two stepdaughters, Blair B. Slaughter (David) of Cockeysville, MD, and Barrie B. Jansen (Thomas) of Moncton, N.B., Canada; brother, William W. Coons, of Newburyport, MA, and nephew, Jeffrey (Mary) Coons, of Smyrna, GA, and nine very special grandchildren.
Interment at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA, will be private.
In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Ken’s memory may contribute to the Kenelm W. Coons Marine Affairs Scholarship at the University of Rhode Island. Donations may be mailed to URI Foundation, PO Box 1700, Kingston, RI 02881 (checks payable to URI Foundation, with scholarship name in memo line), or donations may be made online.
Notes to the family may also be left at legacy.com.
This story originally appeared on Seafoodnews.com, a subscription site. It is reprinted with permission.