After 96 years of living life as a rebellious and determined woman who broke barriers and defied convention, Kandace Kendall passed away Thursday, September 12th. Kandace was the daughter of Greek immigrants, born in Toledo in 1923.
Kandace was a proponent of gender and racial equality from a very young age. She sought to join a support service for the armed forces during World War II, but at 98-pounds, she did not meet the minimum 100-pound requirement. She successfully passed the medical exam by sneaking heavy ball bearings into her pockets, only to be ultimately rejected when it was revealed that she was pregnant.
Undeterred, Kandace would attend college. She was among the first cohort of women to attend medical school at the University of Cincinnati. She ultimately decided not to pursue a career in medicine but blazed a trail for future women to do so. She ultimately earned her bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Toledo, and a Master of Education from the University of Cincinnati.
This was the beginning of a life-long passion for teaching and learning that would become a defining characteristic. She was curious and welcoming of other cultures and was quick to learn new languages. As an outgrowth of these interactions, she was a lover of the arts, music, culture and people from all walks of life. She had danced ballet in her youth and loved telling the story of how she once shared a dressing room and stage with Margot Fonteyn. Kandace learned violin and piano and loved to entertain people and performer in her home which was always open to visitors. She was a Spanish and science teacher in the Toledo area, and then in the public schools in Washington, D.C. before eventually becoming a school counselor. She retired to her home city of Toledo.
Kandace was chosen to represent her counselor group in a delegation to the U.S. Congress. There, she met and befriended then-Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy created a task force to represent the viewpoint of counselors in education reform, and appointed Kandace to the group.
Kandace was proud of her family's American immigration legacy, and would eventually capture the stories, folklore and recipes of her beloved mother Beulah Thomas (married to Demetrius Thomas in a headline-making "triple wedding ceremony" in 1920) for a cultural cookbook celebrating the flavors of Greece and Turkey.
She was active in planning the reunion celebrations for her classmates from Scott High School in Toledo, where she graduated in 1941.
Kandace never ceased learning, choosing in later years to study Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish. She was also an avid follower of the American political scene and was determined to ensure access for all to the polls. Even in her 80's, she was driving people to the polls all over Toledo as a volunteer.
She is survived by her brother, Harris Joe Thomas, her daughter Mary (Pruden) Segur, her stepdaughters Nicole Kendall Bishop and Karen Kendall. She is also survived by her grandchildren Nicola Noetic, Michelle (Scott) Donaldson, Amy (Rajesh) Pruden-Bagchi, and Blake Bishop – as well as great grandchildren Joachim Bowles, Kandace Erin Donaldson, Bryce Donaldson, Ryan Bagchi, Tanya Bagchi, and Blair Bishop. She was predeceased by three husbands and companions, Robert Henry, Archie Kendall and Ruel Shabba.
A memorial service to honor Kandace Kendall will be held on Friday, November 29th at 10am at Toledo Memorial Park, with a celebration of life to follow. Online condolences to reebfuneralhome.com
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