Kenneth Hazzard Panciera, 89, of Panciera Lane, Hopkinton, R.I., beloved husband of Gilda Anne (Liguore) Panciera for 67 years, retired R.I. Army National Guard lieutenant colonel and Korean War veteran, lifelong farmer and devoted family man, died on Sunday, March 15, 2020, at the Elderwood of Scallop Shell at Wakefield, R.I., nursing facility.
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"Ken" was born to the late Peter and Nellie Panciera in Westerly, R.I. He was the brother of the late Mary (Panciera) Briggs and Ronald W. Panciera. He was the father of four children, Andrea Panciera, Christopher J. Panciera and Kenneth P. Panciera, all of Hopkinton, and the late Lynn K. (Panciera) Algier. He is also survived by two grandchildren, Bradley D. Algier Panciera of Lutz, Fla., and Emily P. Panciera, Westerly; sisters-in-law Louise (Liguore) Fitzgerald and Joanne (Church) Panciera, both of Westerly; several nieces and nephews, and Emily’s mother, Amy Panciera.
Ken was known as a hard worker, loyal friend and trusted leader, with a winning smile. He co-owned and operated Russet Valley Farm in Hopkinton, started by his grandfather, Christopher Panciera, a native of Forno di Zoldo in the Italian Dolomites, in the 1890s. Ken ran it at first with his brother, Ron, as an Ayrshire dairy farm and later as a breeder of polled Hereford beef cattle. After selling the dairy herd in 1975, he became an award-winning insurance agent with The Provident Mutual Life Insurance company, then as the regional agent for Farm Family Insurance, insuring most farmers in Rhode Island.
He began his military career at the University of Rhode Island, graduating from the ROTC program in 1952 as a second lieutenant. He went on to serve with the 2nd Infantry Division in the DMZ in Korea in 1953-54 and then the Army Reserve from 1954-59.
He joined the R.I. Army National Guard in 1959, where he began as a first lieutenant in the 103rd Field Artillery, jumped his way to master paratrooper, earned the coveted Green Beret, commanded several units and retired in 1980 as battalion commander, 6th Special Forces Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group. Notably, he also organized and commanded the first Special Forces detachment at the Westerly Armory.
At URI, he majored in agronomy, belonged to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and played varsity baseball.
A 1948 Westerly High School graduate, he was class president and vice president, quarterback and co-captain of the football team, and played baseball. There he met his future wife, "Jill," a cheerleader for the football team.
When not caring for his cows, Mr. Panciera was an avid skier, played golf and watched the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics. He enjoyed military and local histories, cowboy novels and movies, traveling with his wife, dancing and singing to Big Band music. A believer in land preservation, he and his brother sold development rights to their farm, saving it as open space.
He belonged to the Flying Fifties ski club at Loon Mountain, skiing into his 70s. He was a member of the Westerly Yacht Club, Winnapaug Country Club, R.I. Farm Bureau, American Hereford Association and past president of the R.I. Ayrshire Breeders Club. Recently, he enjoyed attending the Westerly Adult Day Center.
Due to coronavirus concerns, visiting hours are omitted and burial with Full Military Honors will be private. A memorial service will be held at a later date. Arrangements are in care of Gaffney-Dolan Funeral Home, 59 Spruce St., Westerly. For online condolences, visit www.gaffneydolanfuneralhome.com.