Kenny Joe McMullen--affectionately known as Kenny, Kin-ty, KJ, and the Mayor of Seattle--met his Heavenly Father on December 13, 2021, at the age of 65 years young. Kenny had just relocated back to Alabama in August 2021 to be closer to his beloved family and childhood friends. He was enjoying his well-earned retirement in his newly purchased home in the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham, beginning the next phase of his life after decades of serving the community in Seattle, WA.
Kenny Joe McMullen was born on June 26, 1956, to Mary and Joseph McMullen. He was the second of four children. Kenny Joe attended Calloway Elementary School and G.W. Carver High School, graduating in 1974. Kenny Joe matriculated and earned a liberal arts degree from Berea College in Berea, KY, in 1979. Following his college graduation, Kenny returned to Birmingham and began working in the food and beverage industry, most notably at Highlands Bar and Grill, fostering his love of food and service to others. Always an avid adventurer and traveler, Kenny Joe relocated from Birmingham to Seattle in the early 1990s, where he continued service in the food and beverage industry, as well as the local community. Kenny founded his own food creations catering and floral arrangement company, initially known as Food and Flowers, eventually becoming Kenny Joe’s Event Services. His community-centered entrepreneurial endeavors allowed him to do what he loved best; creating cultural cuisine and floral arrangements for all occasions.
For more than thirty years, Kenny was a faithful member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle, WA, where he was involved in the Brotherhood Chorus and the Floral Ministry. As a respected advocate for Seattle’s African American community, Kenny Joe worked and volunteered in various capacities and initiatives, thriving as an organizer and activist. Kenny was a founding member of Brother to Brother, which provided culturally-competent support to African American same-gender loving men during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a field in which he worked for more than 25 years. During this time, Kenny served as the supervisor for the Minority AIDS Initiative Grant and Project HANDLE at Neighborhood House, a 115 year old social services organization offering care to those in the community most vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases, substance abuse, and mental health concerns. Kenny was also the coordinator and facilitator of two programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): For Every Man at Seattle’s People of Color Against AIDS Network (POCAAN), and Voices/Voces at Neighborhood House. In addition to his HIV/AIDS activism work, Kenny Joe was a passionate advocate for kidney health in the Black community, serving on the planning committee for the Kidney Health Fair for African American Families from 2002-2009. Prior to his return to Birmingham, Kenny worked to deliver meals for the Southeast Seattle Senior Center, and he supported COVID-19 relief efforts by partnering with Seattle’s Public Health Department, and the nonprofit, Sisters in Common, to deliver masks and personal protective equipment to those in need, particularly Black-owned businesses and Black-led organizations.
Kenny Joe is survived by his mother, Mary McMullen, his older brother, Lamar McMullen (Anna), his younger sisters, Wenona Renae Pearcy (Brian Scott) and Vicki Maye (John), as well as his nieces, nephews, cousins, and legions of extended family and devoted friends. He was preceded in death by his father, Joseph McMullen.
Memorial services will be held at Ridout Gardendale Chapel in Birmingham, AL, on January 8, 2022, at 2 pm (with a live stream option). A Seattle Celebration of Life will be scheduled later in 2022; date to be determined.
Stories and remembrances about Kenny Joe are welcomed and can be shared at the following website: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/gardendale-al/kenny-mcmullen-10492019
Kenny Joe will be remembered by those who knew him as always having a smile on his face and a laugh in his heart. He could step off a plane, train, or bus anywhere in the world, and within minutes he would have several new friends, a place to get a hot meal, and a place to lay his head for the night if required. We will miss his gregarious laughter, infectious happy attitude, and love for life. Until we are reunited with him in His Grace, “Ciao for now!”