Funeral services for longtime New Orleans sportscaster and award-winning journalist Kenneth Wilkerson are set for Tuesday Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home. Wilkerson died last week in his Pearl River home due to complications from a lingering battle with cancer, according to family members.
Family and friends are invited to visitation from 11 a.m. to 2 pm. Interment will be immediately following the service at Hope Mausoleum. (Note: Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is in New Orleans at 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd. Click here for a map and directions.)
WWL "Sports Talk" host Bobby Hebert talked about working with Kenny both as a player and a broadcaster.
"He was very active when he was in the locker room, always getting the interviews," Hebert said. "He really got involved in the early 90's when I was involved with the Saints, and then with his sideline reporting for 11 years. He always tried to do the right thing, and was on the cutting edge at the same time."
Bobby said that Kenny was a tremendous help after he moved back to New Orleans following the death of Buddy Diliberto.
"He was really helpful when I came back home from Atlanta, considering that I had been away for eleven or twelve years. He was an unbelievable guy to work with, and was always supportive of me, and we really had a nice run working together."
Hebert also noted that Wilkerson could never be tagged as a "homer" in covering the Saints.
"You can't get any more New Orleans than Kenny, but he wasn't afraid to be confrontational, to truly be objective. If the team was playing well, he'd acknowledge that, but also challenging the team when they weren't playing as well. He really did his job and really asked the questions that the public wanted to know about the team."
WWL/Saints Radio Operations & Program Director Diane Newman recalls Wilkerson as a member of the WWL family for "many, many years."
"Kenny had a passion and love for WWL that matched his passion and love for this city. He was New Orleans through and through," Newman said. "Kenny was kind & generous…tough & scrappy…he had a fun spirit; a joy that shined through even though he suffered through physical challenges, since a boating accident as a young man. It breaks my heart that Wilky left this earth so young. But, who can question God’s timing. What gives me comfort is imagining Kenny in heaven surrounded by animals of every sort…and belting out a big Who Dat every Sunday. God bless Kenny & his family. God bless us all. Ketchup… ; -) that’s for Kenny."
Click here for a photo gallery from Kenny's years with WWL Radio...
Wilkerson, born on May 16, 1961, attended Jesuit High School and studied at both the University of New Orleans and Delgado Community College . He began his career in journalism reporting for various sports departments including KLFY-TV in Lafayette.
Starting in 1997, Wilkerson became a sideline reporter for WWL’s broadcasts of the New Orleans Saints games. He joined WWL 870AM and covered major sporting events for the station for more than 17 years. Wilkerson shared co-hosting duties on “SportsTalk” with former New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert. Prior to that, Wilkerson was the sidekick to Buddy “D” Diliberto until Dilberto’s death in 2005.
Though a life-long fan of the Black and Gold, Wilkerson was also considered an independent voice who held team officials and players accountable for their on-the-field decisions and actions. Over the years, Wilkerson became a mainstay at local NFL draft coverage, Saints camp, Saint games, and just about any major sporting event in town. Upon leaving WWL 870AM, Wilkerson continued reporting with WIST Radio and WLAE Television. He was the recipient of numerous awards from the New Orleans Press Club and Associated Press.
Neck surgery caused Wilkerson to miss reporting for a while, and he was then diagnosed with cancer in April 2012. He began to suffer medical setbacks, and his family says he died peacefully at his home.
Wilkerson is survived by his mother, former Jefferson Parish School Board Member Judy M. Colgan, his father Pat Wilkerson, three brothers, five stepsisters and one stepbrother. Wilkerson is also survived by stepfather Larry Colgan and stepmother Mary Lou Wilkerson.
Kenny was a part of the fabric of countless memorable Saints moments, including the 2006 "homecoming" game vs. the Falcons. Click the window below to listen to Kenny's commentary at the beginning of that historic game, as well as his sideline report immediately following Steve Gleason's famous punt-block.