Ken’s life exemplified Galatians 5:22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Despite his meager upbringing, Ken was always generous with his time, money, love, talents and leadership. To know Ken was to love him. Many benefited from Ken’s generosity – the American Heart Association, Aspen Camp School for the Deaf, Aspen Institute, Assistance League of Houston, Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, Brookwood Community, Child Advocates Inc., The Counsel for Alcohol and Drugs Houston, DIFFA, Episcopal High School, First United Methodist Church, Holocaust Museum Houston, Horatio Alger Scholarship Fund, Houston Area Women’s Center, Houston Food Bank, Houston SPCA, NAACP, Open Door Church, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Rice University, Salvation Army, Star of Hope, University of Houston, United Negro College Fund, United Way of Texas Gulf Coast, YMCA of Greater Houston.
Ken’s door was always open, whether it was to help with college funds for a child, to help a former Enron employee pay their mortgage; to help young entrepreneurs make their dreams a reality, or to give a second chance when he believed in a person. Ken could not say no to anyone needing help. When asked why he always looked for the best in everyone, Ken would simply reply that it was much better than the alternative.
Ken gave his time and energy to lead huge Houston events like the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, the Welcome Home Desert Storm/Desert Shield Troops parade, referendum campaigns to finance the new Houston baseball park and football/rodeo stadium, as well as the new Houston basketball arena, and the Republican National Convention. Ken did everything possible to make his much-loved city a better place to live.
Ken’s love of Linda was unsurpassed – they were to celebrate their 24th anniversary on July 10th – they were truly best friends, soul mates and partners. They were always holding hands and demonstrating their incredible adoration for each other. Their relationship was truly unique and Linda considers herself the luckiest woman in the world to have had those precious years with Ken.
He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. Proverbs 14:26
Ken leaves behind five children, Robyn, Mark, David, Elizabeth and Beau, who all love him very much. He was their role model for life, business and Christian faith. They are blessed with strong memories of a father who respected each of them for their uniqueness and took the time to foster in them the desire to achieve their best. They enjoyed lively dinner conversations, festive holidays and particularly their quiet times with him.
Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6
Twelve grandchildren, Nicholas, Hannah, Hailey, Sasha, Zach, Pate, Alex, Gage, Preston, Katie, Lucas and Tessa, remember their beloved “Papi/Papia” (depending on which of the 12 you ask) who was never afraid to be silly to entertain one of his treasured grandchildren. He loved teaching them how to whistle, cluck, ride ponies, build snowmen in Colorado and spent precious time with them, watching college football and attending many recitals.
Ken was loved and admired by his sisters, Bonnie and Sharon. They share memories of family, Ruth’s fried chicken and lots of conversation and humor. While the Lay family did not have much money, they were always close and supportive of each other. Ken always had the time to listen and support his family in the best and worst of times. He made many trips to Missouri for holiday celebrations and to visit his sick and dying parents in the last of their lives. He was the Rock of Gibraltar for his parents and his sisters.
Ken’s first wife, Judie, continued to love and support Ken through the greatest challenges of his life and never questioned his integrity.
Ken’s faith supported him throughout his life and gave him the confidence to believe in people. Above all, he trusted God that He had a plan, even if it was never perfectly clear.
While Ken was the son of parents who did not have the opportunity to go to college, Ken graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1964 from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Master in Economics in 1965. At the University of Missouri, Ken was a member of and served as President of Beta Theta Pi. Ken was proud of his fraternity and maintained strong contacts with his fraternity brothers through the years – he found great strength in their support.
Ken completed his formal education at the University of Houston, where he obtained a Ph.D. in Economics in 1970. While there, Ken achieved the additional honors of Omicron Delta Kappa, Omicron Delta Epsilon and was listed in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.
Ken led a long and distinguished career in the public and private sector. Ken worked with Humble Oil (now Exxon Corp.) from 1965 -1968 as an economist in the Corporate Planning Department.
In 1968, Ken enlisted in Officer Candidate School for the United States Navy where, from 1968 to 1971 he served as an Ensign; Lieutenant Junior Grade; Lieutenant; Special Assistant to the Navy Comptroller and Financial Analyst; Office of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Department of the Navy, at the Pentagon. While serving with the Navy, Ken received the Navy Commendation Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
Ken’s legacy as a leader in energy regulation was rooted in his service with the Federal Power Commission from 1971 to 1972 where he served as a technical assistant to Commissioner and Vice Chairman of the Federal Power Commission. Ken left the FPC to serve as the Energy Deputy Under Secretary for the United States Department of Interior.
In 1974, Ken left the public sector in Washington, D.C. to begin his career in the natural gas industry. Ken joined Florida Gas Company, in Winter Park, Florida as Vice President of Corporate Development, later holding the office of Senior Vice President of the transmission company and President of its successor company, Continental Resources Company.
Ken left Continental Resources Company in 1981 to join Transco Energy Company in Houston, Texas where he held the positions of President, Chief Operating Officer and Director. In 1984, Ken accepted the position as Chairman and CEO of Houston Natural Gas Co., which merged with InterNorth in 1985, and which would later be renamed Enron Corp.
Ken loved Enron, and saw the company as one of limitless possibilities. He often talked of the incredible talent at Enron and believed that the Enron employees were unsurpassed in any industry. Ken believed the real value of Enron was in its people. From the most junior employee to his top executives, Ken treated all with the same dignity and respect they deserved as children of God. Employees often remarked on how he recalled their names, family, and other personal details they shared with him.
I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve. Jeremiah 12:10
For those who know and love Ken, we take comfort in the knowledge that he is in the loving presence of the one true Judge.
Celebrations of Ken’s life for family and friends will take place at the Aspen Chapel in Aspen, Colorado at 2 p.m. on Sunday July 9, 2006 and also on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church-Downtown in Houston, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made on Ken’s behalf to First United Methodist Church, Houston – Lifeline Ministries for the Poor, United Way of Texas Gulf Coast, YMCA of Greater Houston, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Aspen Camp School for the Deaf, or the church or synagogue of your choice.
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