OBITUARY: Kenneth J. Cleary, 89

WILMINGTON, MA — Kenneth J. Cleary, age 89, of Cambridge, MA formerly a long-time resident of Wilmington, MA passed away on May 16, 2020.

Kenneth was the beloved husband of Eleanor M. (Gardner) Cleary, devoted father of Kenneth J. Cleary & his wife Joanne of Cambridge, Jeanne E. Cleary of Watertown, and John G. Cleary & his wife Kathy of Bedford, New Hampshire, loving grandfather of Kenneth J. Cleary II & fiancée Sarah Mathews, James A. Cleary & his wife Carol, Sean A. Cleary & his wife Elysse, Robert S. Cleary & his wife Deborah, Nathan C. Greess, Matthew Cleary & his fiancée Caitlin Canetti, Krista J. Cleary-Arel & her husband Matt, and Tucker Cleary, and the great grandfather to Thomas, Peter, Andrew, Charlie, Paul, Jaxson, and Leon, and the cherished son of the late James A. and Elinor M. (Graham) Cleary, dear brother of David G. Cleary of Andover and the late James Cleary of Chicago, and treasured uncle to many beloved nieces and nephews.

Ken graduated from Rindge Technical High School in 1948, a stand out there in track and football. Ken met the love of his life, Ellie in the 8th grade at a church dance. After high school they married and spent their lives together with family always at the center.

Ken was an active member of the Wilmington United Methodist Church, singing in the choir and impacting the lives of youth as a counselor in the MYF. An avid sports fan, Ken coached MYF basketball, Wilmington Pop Warner Football, Cambridge Youth Hockey, and the Valley Junior Warriors where his grandchildren played. Ken found a passion for travel and the outdoors, leading many trips on the Appalachian trails, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, and an annual backpack ski trip into Zealand Hut with family and friends. He and Ellie traveled all 50 states together, 49 of them in their RV, making dear friends and music all along the way. Ken played music by ear and he could be heard leading many a family and group sing-alongs, strumming away on the guitar/banjo, or rocking away on the piano or harmonica.

In 1991, Ken retired from the MBTA after 30 years in the subway’s Central Division. He received multiple commendations. As Governor Dukakis said during his commendation ceremony, “To stop an argument or start a train, call Cleary.”

Ken was a lifelong learner, always reading and discussing philosophy, religion and history. He was a staunch Liberal, however Ken’s love of people far exceeded his love of ideas.

Ken and Ellie were married for 67 years, and their mutual devotion was unparalleled. Although the reality of Covid-19 kept the rest of his family he so dearly loved a painful distance away, his beloved wife Ellie was with him until the end. He will be deeply missed by all that knew him.

Due to the current situation with the Coronavirus and for everyone’s safety, the Cleary family will have a private interment. A Celebration of Ken’s life will be held at a later date.

In memory of Kenneth Cleary, donations be may be made to the Appalachian Mountain Club, 10 City Square, Boston, MA, 02129 or via their website at

Kenneth J. Cleary
Kenneth J. Cleary

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