DUFFIELD — Scott County lost a prominent member of its community over the weekend.
Kenny Fannon passed away on Sunday, Oct. 10, surrounded by family. The Duffield native was 90 years old.
Most knew Fannon as the creator and organizer of Duffield’s largest event, Duffield Daze, which started in 1981 as a way to give back to the Duffield community through a family-friendly event.
But his legacy doesn’t end there.
Fannon served in the Korean War. Throughout his life, he was instrumental in the Veterans Day celebration in Scott County and helped with many other veteran events in the area. He was also a dedicated member of the community who served on the board of directors for Duffield Volunteer Fire and Rescue for many years and was an associate member of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, among other clubs and organizations.
“You just don’t find that kind of spirit and commitment anymore,” Scott County Tourism Director Pam Cox said. “He is going to be missed.”
Those who attended a Scott County Chamber dinner over the years most likely enjoyed a skit from Fannon and longtime friend Joe Fuller.
“We never had it planned, but we would make polite fun of each other as part of the comedy skit, “ Fuller said. “It’s a terrible loss. We all miss Kenny.”
One of the great loves of Fannon’s life was the railroad.
Fannon was a railroad historian who, along with his grandson, Ruston, preserved the history of the railroad in Southwest Virginia through a robust collection of railroad artifacts at the Fannon Railroad Museum. The museum includes refurbished authentic railcars, engines and the depot seen in the ‘80s movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter” about country legend Loretta Lynn. Throughout the years, Fannon and his family also often provided railroad programs at Natural Tunnel State Park and the Southwest Virginia Museum.
“I worked for the railroad for 34 years. Kenny never did work for the railroad,” Fuller said, “but he knew more about the railroad than some of us that worked there because of his studies and things he displayed.”
Fannon was always willing to lend a piece of railroad history, Cox said, while sharing all he could about the subject.
“You could just go up to his house and ask to see his railroad museum,” Cox said, “and he’d take you in.”
But mostly, Fuller said, Fannon just loved talking to people.
“He would talk to anybody,” Fuller said. “He would carry on a conversation and most of the time it led to railroading. He was just a well-liked fella that made friends with whomever he met.”
For many years, Fannon served as the conductor of Duffield Daze, which still continues as a Labor Day event complete with fireworks, live music and more.
That event, Cox said, was a testament to Kenny’s love for the community.
“Everybody knew Kenny,” Cox said. “He was Mr. Duffield.”
In a 2013 article in the Kingsport Times News on Duffield Daze, Fannon said his goal was to provide an event for the community and make Scott County just a little better in the end.
“As long as I’m able, I’m going to keep going on, I reckon,” Fannon said. “Somebody will have to take over one day, but we’ve got some good people to step in, so I’m not worried about it. …
“I do this because I just want to leave this place a little bit better than when I got here.”
Any upcoming arrangements in honor of Fannon will be announced by Oak Hill Funeral and Cremation Services.