Mark Tolbert Kenmore

KenmoreMark Tolbert Kenmore, 62, on November 19, 2016, in Getzville, N.Y., peacefully, surrounded by his wife and two children, from complications of early onset dementia, with his beloved brother and sister-in-law nearby. Mark was born on May 2, 1954, in New York City, to Margaret (Bunny) Bunce and Peter Ignatius Kenmore. His father had come to the United States in 1939 after escaping from Vienna, Austria, with Mark’s grandmother, who had worked with British Quakers after World War I.

From the age of five, Mark loved the theater. When his family moved to Cottage Grove, Md., he acted in many plays at Sidwell Friends School. In Glen Echo, Md., his family integrated a traditionally black Presbyterian church. His father was held in jail with Martin Luther King Jr. while working to register voters in the South.

Mark left Sidwell Friends after the eleventh grade to attend University of Chicago. He wrote and produced the well-received The Death of Samson and learned welding to support his acting career. With friends, he founded the Halcyon Repertory Theater Company to produce commedia dell’arte, his favorite kind of theater. A legal tangle eventually ended the company, and he moved to Brooklyn, attending New York University Law School and continuing acting classes.

After graduating, he worked in general law for Hyatt Legal Services in Buffalo, N.Y. He attended Buffalo Meeting, did radio programs about Quakers, wrote articles, led workshops, trained at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence, and took Alternatives to Violence Project training. He was also a delegate for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign. Eventually he left Hyatt Legal Services to start his own general law practice.

Becoming interested in immigration law, he obtained an 18-month internship at the International Institute. There he tried over 620 cases. He then practiced immigration law at Serotte Reich & Seipp. His cases often came from lawyers who said to their clients, “I don’t think this case is winnable, but if anyone can do it, it’s Mark Kenmore.”

In 1991, he met Sue Tannehill at Buffalo Meeting. Until then, he had never sought membership in a Friends meeting. When they decided to marry, he quoted from the Book of Ruth to Sue, “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” He was finally clear to become a Friend, and in 1993 they married under the meeting’s care. In 1999, his grandmother, now over 100, came to live with them, still marveling that Quakers had come and fed the Viennese after World War I.

He worked on difficult cases and gave criminal law workshops, pointing out the negative effect on immigrants of certain plea bargains. He guest lectured at University of Buffalo Law School, served as president of the local American Immigration Law Association (AILA), and eventually became a partner before leaving in 2001 to start another solo practice—this one dedicated to immigration defense law. In 2006, AILA gave him the Jack Wasserman Award for excellence in immigration law. He was loved and respected even by those who had opposed him in court. He ended his practice in 2006 after his diagnosis. That year he attended a Sidwell reunion, where he and his theater teacher reminisced about the many plays he had acted in.

As the disease took its toll, he had to be placed into care. He is survived by his wife, Sue Tannehill; their children, Abraham Peter Kenmore and Hope Helene Kenmore; his brother, Peter Kenmore (Zenaida); ten nieces and nephews; and five grandnieces and grandnephews.

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