We received the sad news that former Grove executive vice president Ken Kilhefner had passed away at the Select Specialty Hospital in Harrisburg on August 18th. He was 85.
Unfortunately, we were notified shortly after his death, but sadly the notification was lost in our email system and has only just come to light.
Ken Kilhefner grew up in Ephrata, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, graduating from Ephrata High School in 1950. After high school he enlisted in the United States Air Force and served as a military policeman in South Korea during the Korean War. Upon his discharge, he used the GI Bill to attend Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster and graduated with a degree in economics and accounting in 1959.
He began his business career working as a certified public accountant for Price Waterhouse in Philadelphia, moving to Ernst & Ernst in Lancaster in the early 1960’s. In 1966 he joined Grove Manufacturing Company in Shady Grove, as treasurer, at this point the rapidly growing company was still majority owned and managed by the Grove brothers, Dwight and John, building farm wagons, tilt back truck beds alongside the rapidly growing mobile crane business which was already making some inroads in Europe and other international markets. in order to take up the new job, he relocated his family to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and steadily moved up through the ranks at the company.
He witnessed a major upheaval at the company at the end of 1967 when the company was acquired by fire systems conglomerate Kidde, and John Grove abruptly left the company, while out on sick leave. He was followed shortly afterwards by brother Dwight, with Kidde promoting Martin Benchoff to chief executive. Kilhefner became a trusted member of his senior management team and was promoted to executive vice president of marketing. He helpes steer the business though more than a decade of rapid growth and expansion, during which time the company became the clear market leader in the global crane market.
In 1981 he stepped down from his day to day role but remained on board as a consultant until 1986 when. He moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania and joined the accounting firm Kuntz Lesher Siegrist & Martini in Lancaster.
He spent his later years playing golf with friends, following a variety of sports, and more recently took up ballroom dancing. While he was a lifelong Republican, he apparently despised Donald Trump with a passion.
He is survived by son Eric Kilhefner and grandchildren, but sadly was pre-deceased by his wife Shirley Peters Kilhefner, son Kurt Kilhefner and daughter Kris Kilhefner Bradley.
No funeral service was held, but he was buried in the family plot at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Ephrata.
Ken Kilhefner was a true gentleman, always professional, polite, erudite, kind, 'charming' and consistent. When his initial departure was announced in 1981, it came as a shock to many managers in the company who saw him as a steady hand and critical and impartial advisor to Martin Benchoff. It is possibly due to this that he remained involved with the business fulfilling this important role until shortly after the Grove acquisition of Coles in 1985.