Retired educator decorates pumpkins with face masks, remembers past Halloweens

Henry Kenneson stands between two of his jack-o’-lantern decorations adapted for the COVID-19 pandemic Friday outside Kenneson’s home on Lakeway Drive. Kenneson, known for his handmade Halloween decorations, added duct tape face masks to his traditional jack-o’-lantern planters.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

With Halloween around the corner, and the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our daily lives, community members are finding ways to keep the spooky spirit withour risking their health.

Brownsville resident Henry Kenneson decided to decorate his house for Halloween a little different this time and decided to add black face masks to the pumpkins on his yard. This has made neighbors stop by to take photos with their families and get into the October spirit.

The pumpkins Kenneson made are made of hypertufa, an artificial rock which is like a container, with a hole at the bottom and are being used for plants. He said he made them last year but decided to repaint them this year because they fade out with the sun and the idea to add the face mask started when a friend walked by and joked about adding one to them.

“Jimmy was walking by and said ‘hey, why don’t you put a mask in one of them?’ and I asked ‘what kind, a halloween mask?’ and he said ‘no!’ so I was like ‘OK, I know what you’re talking about’ so I had black duct tape and that’s what I ended up doing,” Kenneson recalled

Kenneson said for almost 40 years, every year he would get a chair, several bags of candy and sat outside the house at his yard to give candy to the hundreds of kids that would show up trick or treating to the street. This year due to the pandemic, there will be no trick or treating but Kenneson said he hopes to be back next year to see all the costumes.

“We normally end up having about 600 kids coming and I usually would end up sitting over there with my chair and a bag with the candy,” he said. “But now how am I going to be able to give it safely? and if I leave it outside, someone will grab the whole thing. We might end up doing small bags of candies and give them out to people that we know with kids.”

Kenneson said it was always great to see the original costumes the kids would wear and it is sad that this year there will be no trick or treating, especially for the kids because this is a season they look forward to.

“It’s sad, it’s going to be different. We always enjoyed giving out candy to the kids and helping them. And it’s sad for the children because it is a day that they look forward to,” he said while showing photos of previous Halloweens on his cellphone.

“The kids dressed so original, last year we had an Elvis … This one was the best, it was a little girl, she had a wig and a walker, I mean she stole it. We always had the Halloween costumes from Walmart that the kids would come in but these were original, we had about six of them and we even had a pig, a real pig with a costume.”

Kenneson is a former educator who was a teacher at Brownsville High School for 10 years [now Hanna Early College] and then went into administration as a principal at Perez and Sharp Elementary. He retired for a few years before going back to teach for a few years to other schools and then retired again.

He said this school year is very difficult and different for the teachers.

“It’s going to be really difficult for the teachers because it’s not hands-on where you can actually see if the idea is getting across,” he said. “When you are hand on with the students, you can see that they got it, that they got the big smile, they understood whatever you’re teaching and it’s more hands on and one on one.”

When asked for a message for the community, Kenneson said he hopes everyone stays safe and will be able to celebrate Halloween again next year.

“Be safe, we’ll have Halloween next year,” he said.