Before publishing his book, Kenny Harmon’s life drastically changed as he became an internet sensation. On March 16, 2016, a playful tweet by his granddaughter Kelsey soared through cyberspace, making him into America’s Sad Papaw.
Sad Papaw’s story has inspired several people to communicate and stay connected with their older family members. For Kenny, the life-changing experience has prompted him to look back into his history and heritage, which soon turned into a moving memoir called Sad Papaw’s Heritage.
In an exclusive radio interview with Kate Delaney on America Tonight with Kate Delaney, Kenny discussed the road to writing his books and the interesting new things he learned.
A freelance writer and reporter, Charlotte Hopkins, helped Kenny complete his book. Writing his book isn’t a walk in the park for Kenny. It had undergone several revisions before Kenny deemed it ready for publishing. His book opened his eyes to fascinating details, especially his family’s origins. Among the information he learned is the roots of their surname Harmon.
“Harmon was originally German, pronounced ‘Hermann,’” Kenny shares, “so the book begins with the origins of my surname, and then it moves forward to when my ancestors came from Germany to America in the 1700s, and then from Virginia, my third great-grandfather moved to Kentucky. And then, after decades in Kentucky, they began their westward travels to Missouri, Kansas, and eventually Oklahoma.
“Quite a quite a journey for my ancestors.”
Further reflecting on the process of writing his book, Kenny found his ancestors’ popularity to be the most surprising thing he had discovered.
“Those two men were cousins of my fourth great-grandfather. And those men were Henry Harmon and Mathias Cormann. They lived in Virginia from about 1730-ish up,” said Kenny. The two men were famous frontiersmen on the same level as Daniel Boone. He also talked about Henry being given a nickname by the Native Indians. “His nickname was Sky Gusty, and the meaning the meaning of Sky Gusty is great warrior.”
A Personal Portrait
Kenny disclosed that his sixth book, which he will be working on next year, will look into his personal history. The book will portray Sad Papaw’s life from his family to his own.
“I’m going to go into detail about my life, and it’s quite a story,” he said. “Some of it is good, and some of it is not so good. But I’ve got a couple of family members that have asked me to. To write more about myself, and that’s what I’m going to do in the final book.
“I’ve got one more reflection to do, reflections three and then I’m going to do the final book. I hope I can do those last two books next year.”
Sad Papaw’s Heritage is more than just a book about a family’s heritage. It also delves into the lesser-known history of Oklahoma, which Kenny discussed during his conversation with Kate.
“Well, very few Oklahomans know I haven’t written this yet, but very few Oklahomans know that there were actually seven land runs, not just one. So that was very interesting. I didn’t know about myself till I did some research.”
Kenny added, “And also there was an Oklahoman back in the early 1900s. He was known as the Wolf Man of Oklahoma, and he became a very good friend of Teddy Roosevelt.”
Papaw’s Excellent Helper
Kenny took the time to express his gratitude towards Rhonda O’Malley, a family member who helped him research stuff for his books. “Her name is Rhonda O’Malley, and she’s the granddaughter of one of the brothers of my grandpa,” said Kenny. “She lives in southwestern Oklahoma, and she is the family guru. She’s helped with a lot of the research, especially on the colonial research.
“I had no idea that there was even any history of our family before they were in Kentucky in the early 1800s. But she discovered this stuff and also found some things online.”
In the pages of Sad Papaw’s Heritage, we know the man behind the image. We learn about his history that began in the wheat fields of Kentucky. We revisit the time when baseball was a new game, and Americans first took to the fields to play it. We witness farmers’ struggles as they work hard to pursue their dreams of a new life in America. It was a time in America that will never be forgotten.
Listen to Kate Delaney’s interview with Kenny “Sad Papaw” Harmon at ReadersMagnet’s official YouTube channel. Learn more about him and his works by visiting his website at https://www.sadpapawbooks.net/. Get a copy of Sad Papaw’s Heritage on Amazon, ReadersMagnet Bookstore, and Barnes & Noble.