Born four blocks from the farm where he and his wife Jane live now and recently retired as the Vernon County southern commissioner, Shaw graduated from Bronaugh High School in 1954 and accepted his father's challenge to finance college with 40 acres of soybeans.
Learning just how woeful a farmer's luck can be when the beans went bust, he went to work for the Vendo vending machine company in Kansas City and ended up one of three test engineers who designed the nation's first machine that would brew your coffee, mix in sugar and cream and pour it in a cup for 25 cents. "It was all hard wiring and relays," he said.
"I went to night school at UMKC for three or four years and married Joan Jurdan. We moved to the farm near here that my grandparents bought in 1907."
Shaw made travel trailers in Coffeyville, worked for the Armitage and Thorpe appliance companies in Nevada and was maintenance supervisor for Crane Plumbing for five years before joining the Nevada R-5 School District to teach heating, air conditioning and basic electricity at the Nevada Regional Technical Center.
He and Joan had two boys, Kenny Jr. and Todd of Bronaugh, and daughters Melodie Davis of Nevada, Jeni Vernardo of Columbia and Sara Shaw of Greenville, S.C., eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Joan died in 2010 after 53 years of marriage, then he married Jane Riggs, whom he had dated "all through high school," he said.
His parents were Boyd Shaw, who owned the Farmers Union grocery and supplies store here, owned a third of the local bank and was president of the Bronaugh School Board, and the former Winona Feller. He has a brother, Radean of Nevada, and sisters Sharon Garrison of Olathe, Shirley Farran of Nevada and Sandra Bogart of Bronaugh.
Having a summertime occupation of custom baling as many as 10,000 hay bales a season from the mid-1970s into the late '80s, Shaw was ready to teach boys how to work. "Some of them thought they were tough, but I was kind of tough, too, so I enjoyed that," he said, chuckling.
"I taught 300 to 400 in 28 1/2 years and I have at least 100 working all over the county, including Chris Hendren, Brent Ernsbarger, Steve Pettibon, Jerry Wait and Brian Ast in Nevada. I also have some I could name who didn't turn out too whoopie."
Shaw drove school buses for 40 years in Nevada and Bronaugh and retired from teaching in 2000, worked in his trade and averaged running 100 head of cattle at his farm until he was appointed to the county commission in 2006. He was elected in 2008 and in January relinquished those duties to Everett Wolfe of Deerfield. "I enjoyed the people and working with those who didn't agree with what we did," he said.
"I'd explain and they were usually satisfied. If I had been 65, I would have run again; but there comes a time when other people can do a better job than what you are doing. I think Mr. Wolfe can do a good job.
"We got the sales tax passed, the new jail built, the 9-1-1 system up, the bridges repaired and we gave tax abatements to get the Archer Daniels Midland (soybean crushing, bio-diesel) plant in."
Asked what he likes about the area he knows so well, Shaw said, "We had less unemployment than any county in Missouri last summer, less than 6 percent, mostly because of 3M and Crane Plumbing (now American Standard Brands).
"I feel safe in Vernon County. There are an awful lot of people who care about each other. I was bringing a dryer into the house last week and three people stopped to ask if they could help. If I was in Kansas City, I doubt if many would have stopped to see if I needed any help."