Kenon Marie (Ramsey) Neal lived an incredible, blessed and full life on earth. On July 16, 2014, Kenon was ushered into the presence of her Savior, Jesus Christ, for the beginning of her new life in humble adoration for her risen King.
Kenon was born in Laguna Beach, California, on December 8, 1965, to Marine Capt. Kenneth Raymond and his beautiful wife, Lois Jo Ramsey. Thirteen months later, her sister, Dana, was born and the family was complete. Kenon left her childhood home of Boise, Idaho, to attend Westmont College in Montecito, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in English in 1988.
After graduation, Kenon moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, having just completed treatment for Stage 3 Hodgkin’s disease, to become a resident director at Bethel University. While walking the hallways during an orientation tour for the new job, Kenon bumped into her future husband, Matthew Neal. Realizing they had met in previous years through mutual friends, they began their 25-year journey together in January 1989. Shortly into their courtship, Kenon had a serious Hodgkin’s recurrence and the young couple soon found the test of their love. On December 22, 1989, they were married in Phoenix, Arizona, while Kenon was completing her treatment. Graciously sporting a beautiful blond wig, Kenon and Matt were united in Christ and “in sickness and in health” for what would become a beautiful bond of love, sacrifice, joy, redemption and purpose.
Through her own experiences in the oncology waiting room, Kenon was led to connect children with cancer to other children around the world. She began Kids Cancer Network, publishing a children’s magazine for these special families. She even published an issue while undergoing a bone marrow transplant at the City of Hope for pre-leukemia cancer.
Kenon’s greatest accomplishment and her deepest joy was the adoption of her three beautiful children, Tanner (18, the Acrobat), Luke (15, the Athlete) and Aliza Grace (11, the Animal Lover). Kenon was an extremely devoted mother who went to extraordinary lengths to throw her kids a birthday party every year and create many memorable family traditions. An extrovert who could not get enough of people, she was a perfect match for raising these beautiful blessings from God.
In 2006, Kenon began another battle with breast cancer, and through the work of incredibly smart physicians, survived to journey upward and onward while the kids matured and friendships were bonded.
Having now engaged in four major cancer battles, Kenon began speaking publicly about her faith in God and how He would never betray her, even in the lowest possible moments of life. Her faith in and love for Jesus grew immensely. Her work as the director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Westmont College gave her the opportunity to mentor students on campus and further the Kingdom work of Westmont.
Kenon shared her story with cancer families, nursing students, at Easter services, Westmont Chapel, breast cancer awareness events, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Soroptomist Club, and in her favorite setting, among her fellow patients and the hospital staff who cared tenderly for her during her many visits. Longing to be a hospital chaplain, God gave Kenon a unique opportunity to minister to countless patients, hospital and medical staff through her own disease. Truly, she was the greatest version of herself as a patient among those who needed comfort and those who heal.
In October 2012, Kenon was diagnosed with esophageal metastasized cancer. Armed with years of experience and a very strong and tested faith, Kenon journeyed forward into battle with honor, dignity, courage and privilege. She never doubted God’s love for her and clung to the joy set before her: a future glory in heaven.
Kenon’s faith touched multitudes and drew others to greater strength. Many found faith in Jesus for the first time through her example and wise counsel.
As one wise friend said, “Kenon, you lived your life holding God’s hand … and your other hand held ours. Oh how we LOVE you!” To say Kenon will be greatly missed is a huge understatement.
Kenon is survived by her husband, Matthew; sons Tanner and Luke; daughter Aliza Grace; father and mother, Kenneth and Lois Ramsey; sister (and bone marrow donor) Dana Oliver and her husband, Dennis; nephew Denny Oliver; and nieces Emily and Wendy Oliver. She is also survived by her beloved uncle, Dr. Todd Burt and wife Char; Aunt Beth McGovney; her beloved cousins, Dr. Todd and wife Jenn Abbott; Dr. Lindsay Burt, Dr. Ashley Burt and nurse Erin Burt.
A celebration of life will be held at Santa Barbara Community Church, 1002 Cieneguitas Road, at 2 p.m. Monday, July 28. A reception will follow at the church.
Kenon’s physical condition never allowed for a life insurance program for the family. She asked that donations be made to help her children complete a formal education. An account has been set up for their behalf at The Bank of Santa Barbara. Gifts must be payable to Matthew W. Neal - FBO Tanner, Luke, Aliza. Mail to The Bank of Santa Barbara, Attn: Erin Mathenia, 5880 Calle Real, Goleta, Calif. 93117.