Kenneth William Painter

Kenneth William Painter, known as “Red,” “Sunshine” or “Buddy,” a man who was a friend to everyone and an icon in the community, died Thursday April 27, 2017 at Tendercare Health Center in Rogers City. A lifelong resident of Onaway, Sunshine was born in Onaway October 28, 1932, the son of Ernie and Grace (Wallace) Painter.


Red Painter was raised on a farm east of Onaway. As a young man he worked hard to help with farm chores including milking cows and putting up the hay. He loved animals, especially his kitties, dogs and the raccoons he loved to feed on his back porch.  No dinner leftovers or food scraps were every wasted when Red was around as he saved everything to feed to his raccoons each night. Red started each day with a walk into Onaway to have breakfast at Wood Winds Restaurant. Most of the time he was selling potatoes, hay or wood, and asked everyone he knew if they wanted to buy. It seemed that he knew everyone and everyone knew him. His favorite meal was chicken with mashed potatoes; he loved cookies; and he loved going to the Dairy Queen for ice cream treats. He loved his mother dearly and talked about her often, telling stories about how they would jump on the train into Onaway as it passed behind their farm.

Buddy loved to be the center of attention and to be doted on.  He loved getting his picture taken and loved looking at photographs. He was extremely proud of the bridge on One Mile Highway that the road commission named in his honor, Red’s Bridge, and was very proud to be in Onaway’s Fourth of July parade in 2016 as the man who walked 250,000 miles. Those daily walks into Onaway sure added up through the years.  Buddy melted our hearts and made us smile with his enormous grin and enthusiastic wave as he rode through Onaway during the parade last summer.  Sunshine enjoyed many holidays and birthdays with his Onaway “family” who he loved dearly, Marie and Gene LaLonde, who he called “Mother” and “Dad;” his “Sis,” Denise Chapman; and his best hunting, trapping and junkin’ buddy, Cal Chapman.

Surviving Buddy are 11 nieces and nephews who he called “aunts” and “uncles,” numerous gre

at-and great-great nieces and nephews who all loved visiting him at the farm, not to mention his Onaway “family;” his friends at Wood Winds;  and all the people in the community who will miss seeing Red. Red was preceded in death by his brother and sister-in-law, Sam and Dorothy Painter; three half brothers, Ivan, Dana and Raymond Powell; and his parents.

A graveside service will be held at Hillcrest Cemetery in Onaway Saturday May 13, at 2 p.m.  The Rev. Carmen Cook will officiate.

Those planning an expression of sympathy please consider a donation in memory of Red to the Onaway Food Pantry.

Condolences may be share online at