A well-known and respected Statesboro businessman was remembered Wednesday for his character, his sense of family, and his business ethics.
James Kenneth “Kenny” Ellis, died Saturday afternoon as results of injuries he sustained in a single-vehicle accident on Kennedy Bridge Road. He was 60.
A Hopeulikit native and Portal High School graduate, Ellis was co-owner of Ellis Meat Market in Statesboro and Savannah and a member of Friendship Baptist Church.
“He was a family guy,” longtime friend Harvey Ellison said. “He loved his family, loved his work, loved to have a good time. He worked hard and loved to see his family have a good time.”
Portal-area resident Glenda Vickery said Ellis was a lifetime friend of her husband, Dale Vickery.
“Dale was an only child, so Kenny was as close to a brother as he ever had,” she said. “They went all the way through school together and remained very close throughout the years.”
She and her husband accompanied Ellis and his wife, Jackie, on many trips.
“The four of us went everywhere together for many years,” Glenda Vickery said.
Lonnie Ellis, a distant relative of Kenny Ellis’ family, remembered him for his strong character.
“Kenny was the type of man that, if life gave us the opportunity to pick a son, brother, husband, father, cousin or friend, many of us would put him at the top of our list,” he said. “He was a strong man of character, someone who loved his family and who showed it on a daily basis in his drive to succeed in business and life.
“He worked hard -- a testament of the values he was raised with,” Lonnie Ellis continued. “Kenny valued family and friends and he held a constant smile on his face for each one who was fortunate enough to be in one of those categories....and, sometimes it seemed as if the lines between whether or not you were family or friend blurred a little.”
A great sense of humor and friendly personality are what business associate Shelby Cone recalls about Ellis.
“Kenny had a laugh that was contagious,” she said. “No matter how bad my day may have been, I couldn’t be down around him because he wouldn’t allow it. He had a way of making everyone who walked in his store feel at home.”
Angie Edenfield, Ellis’ sister, spoke for the family as she shared words about her brother.
“Kenny was the kind of big brother every sister and brother wanted,” she said. “He was there if and when you needed him. Growing up he was taught to always be the bigger person. He was a big man that was humble and honest and loved his family. Jackie and his children were the center of his universe. He loved them unconditionally.”
Longtime friend Keith Boyette said he and Ellis shared a great deal in common as “seasoned businesspeople.”
Ellis was a “doggone good businessman and a wonderful family person,” he said.
In maintaining the meat businesses, a large farming operation and rental property, the family worked well together, Boyette said.
“It is hard to work with family, but he was always able to make it work,” he said. “Not everybody can handle that.”
Cone said Ellis “was the glue that held the business together with his old-fashioned hard work ethic and way of treating people how he wanted to be treated. He will be greatly missed by all of us whose lives were touched by him. “
A sister-in-law, Carolyn Akins, said, “Kenny was always nice to me and treated me as if I was family.”
Longtime friend Neal Sapp said Ellis was “a good person, real generous and a great friend. He told you exactly what was on his mind. We thought the world of him and spent many weekends and trips with him and his family.”
Ellis is survived by his wife of 25 years, Jackie H. Ellis of Hopeulikit; daughters and sons-in-law Lannette E. and Scott Skrine, and Hannah E. and Tracey Deal, all of Portal, and Kaitlin Ellis of Hopeulikit.
Also, son Kenneth “Kyle” Ellis, parents James Lannie and LeVaughn Smith Ellis, all of Hopeulikit; two sisters and brothers-in-law Angela and Joe Edenfield of Statesboro, and Pamela and Stan Ballew of Tifton, Ga.; and one brother and sister-in-law, Lannie Kimball Ellis and Shirl Ellis of Hopeulikit.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.