Mike and Karen Yates, Steve VanZandt, Barbara and Charles Walter, Bob
Collins, Pete and Barbara Jenny, Scott and Sandra Lewandowski, The
North American Falconers Association, Mark Kopeny, Mike Arnold,
Greg and Lisa Brooks, Allen Gardener, Troy Taylor, Tom and Kathy
Maechtle, Jeff King, Paul and Linda Mascuch, Rich Howard, Doug and
Trish Pineo, Alan and Venice Beske, Carla Durbin, Gary Freitag, Terry
enneth (Kenny) G. Sterner passed from this world on
Tuesday, September 15, 2015. He did so reluctantly,
fighting a heroic battle with optimism and grace. His
family and friends, whom he spent his life serving, were
faithfully by his side.
Kenny’s life journey began in Arlington Heights, Illinois on August
13, 1946. He was the first of four children born to Norman and
Margaret (Peg) Sterner. They lived on the northern edge of a rapidly
enlarging greater Chicagoland when cornfields still peppered the
His early youth found him totally immersed in falcons and
falconry. As a teenager in 1963, he attended his first NAFA meet in
Centerville, South Dakota. Kenny brought his immature redtail,
Tiercy. For the next 36 years, Kenny and Tiercy were more than
a falconer and a hawk. Kenny loved that bird – the feeling was
In the early 1970s, Kenny, along with his friend Karyn and her
daughter Carla, headed west to the farm country of the Rathdrum
prairie in Hayden, Idaho. A pioneer toddler in this western trek,
Carlas devotion to her dad” was unshakable. The little girl from
the 1970s grew to become wife and mother, raising three children
who knew Kenny as Grandpa. In 1990, Kenny moved to the
open, sunny skies of Sheridan, Wyoming. He had, at last, found his
Kenny’s professional trade as an electrician led to the purchase of
an electrical component company, O.A.Windsor, which he operated
for 35 years. Being self-employed, Kenny was able to pursue his
passion for falconry. In Sheridan, he was a valued collaborator with
established falconers and breeders. He lived, breathed, flew and
bred falcons. He raised hundreds. His cast of gyr/peregrine hybrids,
“The Boys”, were successful gamehawks and a YouTube world-
wide sensation. These experiences led to travel throughout the
US, Europe, Mexico and the UAE, adding new perspectives to his
falconry as well as lifelong friendships.
Kenny served in the United States Army as a less than enthusiastic
draftee during the late 1960s. However, he did his duty and was
honorably discharged. In 2014, Kenny underwent a quadruple
bypass at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Denver. Despite an initial
successful recovery, within a few months he began to suffer memory
lapses. He was eventually diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease,
a devastating brain disorder for which there is no cure.
Terry Draut and Kenny were best friends for over 50 years. They
met when they were in junior high school. Both shared an interest
in birds as at the time both were raising pheasants.
Their introduction to falconry was simply by chance. One day
Kenny, John Ebel, Marty Lewandowski, and Terry saw a man
flying a falcon in an open field in their hometown. The falconer
was Ed Fitch. The rest is history. “Mr. Fitch became their mentor.
Although they then didn’t realize it, their lives would never be the
same. Even at this young age Kenny knew that falconry would the
great passion for the rest of his life.
For the ensuing years falconry took center stage in their lives. It
became the glue that held their group together. Trapping hawks,
hunting with hawks, going out West to get young Prairie Falcons,
they did it all. Kenny was always in the lead.
Kenny’s house was ground zero for falconry related activities.
They shared fond memories of all night “waking parties were the
goal was to get freshly trapped Redtail Hawks quickly manned and
eating from the fist. They didn’t know which was more tired in the
morning: they or the hawks. But for 14 or 15 yr olds, nothing was
more fun.
Before they could drive, Kenny’s mom would supply the “wheels”
for road trapping. Mrs. Sterner drove the rural roads, her old
Plymouth packed with kids looking for a hawk to trap. On one
occasion they caught a Kestrel after persuading Kenny’s younger
brother, Donnie, to loan them his pet mouse to use as bait.
Frequently, Mrs. Sterner brought home a road kill” squirrel that
she had picked up while running errands. This proved beyond a
doubt that Kenny’s mom was really cool.
The fondest memories during this time were the yearly fall raptor
migration and trapping hawks. Early on, they learned that for best
results they needed a trapping site on Lake Michigan - the closer
to the Lake the better. Kenny, as usual, took the lead. Primarily
through his efforts in the fall of 1965 they built a blind on Homer
Miller’s property in Zion, Illinois. This became the famous
“Wooden Blind. It remains in use to this day.
Over the next several years this blind became a legend to the
local falconry community. They trapped hundreds of birds -
Sharp shins, Coopers, Goshawks, Redtail Hawks, Marsh Hawks,
Merlins, Kestrels, Peregrines. Kenny even trapped a Gyrfalcon. Fall
migration was one of the highlights of their lives. Life never got any
Kenny will always be remembered
for his devotion to falconry and his
support of the falconry community.
He served for years as the president of the Wyoming Falconers
Association. Despite leaving Illinois in the 1970s, he remained in
close contact with his friends from the “Wooden Blind” days. He
was one of the founding members of the Great Lakes Falconers
Association. At the Fiftieth Anniversary of GLFA, many of those
members were in attendance. They traveled back to Illinois from
throughout the county because Kenny had remained in contact and
wanted to see them at a great celebration.
Kenny’s passion for falconry continued throughout his life. His
love for the sport and birds of prey grew stronger every year. Over
the years Kenny made sure that he, Terry and Carla stayed in touch.
This was really important to him and all are grateful to him. He was
Carlas “Dad”, Terry’s best friend and is greatly missed.
by Carla Durbin and
Terry Draut
Kenny’s passion for falconry
continued throughout his life.