St. Petersburg Times
Brandon Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Letter to the editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message


He found his freedom on two wheels

Published May 11, 2007


Kenneth Garrison was never the kind of guy who lived a laid-back life.

He grew up on a Nebraska farm, where he worked full time from age 12. His family had no car, phone or electricity, and all their food came from the land.

When he was 17, he joined the Army and served as a demolitions expert in the Korean and Vietnam wars. When he retired from the military, he moved here and worked for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office bomb squad for more than 20 years.

Even when he was well into his 70s, he was likely to head off spontaneously on cross-country motorcycle trips.

"Most of the time he'd schedule what he was going to do, " said his son, Kenny. "But sometimes he'd get sick of sitting around. He'd come to my house and say, 'Feed the mail and check on the cat, and I'll see you whenever I get back.' That was the way he usually put it, 'Feed the mail and check on the cat.' "

It took lung and prostate cancer to slow Mr. Garrison down. He was diagnosed last year, had surgery in December and never fully recovered. He died May 3 at age 75.

His Army career took him to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Southeast Asia, as well as to several bases around the United States. He moved his family to Florida in 1962, just before he started one of his tours of duty in Vietnam.

"He wanted to retire here because the weather was warm and there was a base nearby, " said his daughter, Debra Greenfield. "He got hit by shrapnel in Vietnam and got a discharge in 1966."

He joined his family in the Clair-Mel neighborhood just east of Brandon and almost immediately joined the Sheriff's Office as a deputy and became one of the first bomb squad members.

"It wasn't that he loved that kind of work, " Greenfield said. "He just knew it was a job that had to be done, and he was the one who could do it. My dad was never one to shirk his responsibilities."

His tenure with the Sheriff's Office proved to be somewhat less hazardous than his Army duty. His only injury was a burned hand, suffered when he was called to remove a small bomb that a student had brought to school for show and tell.

He retired from the Sheriff's Office in 1993. His wife, Wahnetah, whom he had started dating in high school, died the next year.

He spent the remaining years of his life traveling and just relaxing.

"He was a man's man, " his son said. "He'll be missed by us and a lot of other people."

Besides his son Kenny and his daughter Debra, Mr. Garrison is survived by daughters Kimberly Willson and Deana Hartig, son David, three brothers, a sister, 17 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.

[Last modified May 10, 2007, 07:41:16]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters