Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

February 15, 2005 > Calling All Birds

Calling All Birds

Local Birdhouse Display Creates Quite a Stir

by Heidi Leung

Kelly Kennan started out to be an architect and although he never became one then, he has in a sense, become one now. He builds unique birdhouses that have won him recognition as an accomplished artist...and he has an ear for chainsaws.

When Kennan hears the sound of a chainsaw, signaling the cutting down of trees, he has been known to get into his pickup truck and drive towards the noise in search of materials to incorporate into a new birdhouse design. His birdhouses, made from all natural materials found in Fremont, are currently on display at the Fremont Main Library through February and the San Francisco Main Library.

A 49-year Fremont resident, Kennan is always on the lookout for unusual materials. "I keep my eyes open. I look around the Dumbarton Bridge area and in Niles Canyon, and if I see something interesting, I pick it up and store it in the barn." At the age of 83, he likes to take his time creating each piece. The houses appeal to five different bird species that either inhabit or migrate to Fremont and nest in holes and trees.

Some of the branches he finds are straight and others have four or five different limbs attached to build "apartments." One of the birdhouses on display at the Fremont library is a duplex where he put up a sign that says "Duplex for sale, reverse mortgage OK."

In order to create the holes that house the birds, Kennan had to design three different vises to hold the wood pieces, placing them on a bench or on the floor.

Kennan started building birdhouses when a friend sent him one that captured his imagination. At first, he made them for friends and family but eventually, found a store to display and sell them. "I really enjoy it," he said. Kennan has won "Best of Class" and "Best of Division" for seven consecutive years at the California State Fair and the Alameda County Fair in categories such as woodwork and California living.

Prior to WWII, Kennan attended the University of Southern California's School of Architecture for two years. When the war started, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served on a "crash boat" - similar to a Naval PT boat but 20 feet shorter and more maneuverable - in Tillamok Bay, Ore. for four years. When he returned, he decided not to go back to school because in order to become a licensed architect, it would have required an additional 12 years of schooling. He got married and decided to get a job in sales.

As a salesman, Kennan worked for Robertshaw Fulton Controls Company, a manufacture of thermostats, until he was promoted to an aftermarket position that required a move from California. He didn't want to relocate so he turned down the promotion and started his own manufacturers' sales representative company with a couple of partners where he worked for 32 years until his retirement.

Kennan has been married to his wife, Doreen, for 58 years. She has volunteered at Kaiser for the last 16 years, taking the blood pressure of patients. He and his wife have six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, with another one on the way.

Bird house production may slow down a bit plans due to the time and energy they require for construction, but Kennan says you can still purchase one of his creations at Wild Birds Unlimited, 5022 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, (510) 745-8320.

Bird House Exhibit through February
Fremont Main Library
2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont
(510) 745-1400
Mondays & Tuesdays 1 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Wednesdays 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Thursdays & Fridays 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closed Sundays

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