Ask those who knew Jonathan Kenion, and they’ll remember his days as a dedicated teacher who taught instrumental music for 30 years and used music to bring out the very best in young people.
But ask Jamille Kenion about her brother and her mind will flash back to the grueling months he spent in ICU. She visited him every day before he died of a stroke earlier this month at age 52.
"I kind of was like the big sister who always wanted to protect him, and I sometimes feel like I wasn’t really able to do that this time," she said.
"I’m grateful to have had him for the time we did," added Jamille Kenion, an assistant principal at Polytechnic High School. "But it still seems like it was too soon."
As family and friends prepared for a public concert in his honor Tuesday night at North Hollywood High School, many were still grappling with the sudden loss of a good friend.
Former music teacher and Van Nuys High School Principal Yolanda Gardea worked with Kenion for many years and considered him a brother. "It's unbelievable," she said. "He cared about kids first."
Gardea said Kenion worked at schools in many lower-income areas — Sun Valley Middle School, North Hollywood High and Cortines High School were among places he taught.
Kenion started this school year teaching at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, but left when he required hospitalization.
"He was caring, he was loving, but he had very high expectations and he didn't accept excuses from kids and they loved that about him," Gardea said.
Kenion is survived by his mother, sister and brother as well as seven nieces and nephews. A collection will be taken at the North Hollywood High memorial to start a scholarship in his honor.