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Feb 26, 2024 - 6:01:10 PM
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2506 posts since 2/16/2017

I'm very sorry to deliver the sad news that Ken passed away this afternoon. Ken was diagnosed with cancer last spring, and unfortunately it had already spread at the time of detection. As I'm sure you'd expect from him, Ken fought, and he fought hard. When I visited with him recently, he told me that he had defied his doctor's expectations, so much so that he even felt well enough to go back into the shop in late fall to build a final batch of banjos. Sadly, Ken grew very weak over recent weeks, and he spent his last days in the home he built in the mountains, surrounded by his family, dogs, and nature that he loved so much.

Ken lived a remarkable life, accomplishing so much, and touching so many people along the way. His beautiful posts, knowledge, and wisdom that he selflessly shared on this forum is simply irreplaceable. You all know that the instruments he made are truly works of art in themselves, and I find some solace knowing that part of him will live on every time they are played. In this way, he will never really be gone. Ken has been an inspiration to me, I'm honored to have known him, and I will miss him dearly. I know that many of you feel the same way.

Hope asked me to deliver this news to you all, and I will pass along more information here as it's available. I will share this thread with Hope, so please feel free to offer your condolences, appreciation, and memories of Ken here, knowing that your words will make it directly to his family.


Feb 26, 2024 - 6:07:25 PM
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82 posts since 9/2/2021

Such sad news and a real loss to the community. I didn’t know Ken except for his many contributions here and his fine workmanship crafting banjos. My thoughts and prayers to the family.

Feb 26, 2024 - 6:09:34 PM
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358 posts since 3/26/2012

I never met Ken in person, but he was kind enough to always answer a question I had about banjos, specifically regarding achieving the ideal setup depending on components. He will be missed.

Feb 26, 2024 - 6:15:36 PM
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3524 posts since 4/7/2010


Though this is sad news, thank you for sharing. My family would travel near Shunk, PA a few times a year to visit Syracuse, NY. On one of those adventures north, we detoured to the LeVan estate to deliver some banjo parts and spend a few hours playing Ken's banjos and checking out his methods of work in the shop. It was a very pleasant break in the 500 mile trip.

My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Bob Smakula

Feb 26, 2024 - 6:23:17 PM
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3330 posts since 5/2/2012

So sorry to hear this news. A BHO legend. Made beautiful banjos and freely shared his knowledge. A huge loss to the banjo community.

Feb 26, 2024 - 6:49:45 PM

971 posts since 12/19/2010

So very saddened to hear this. As Mike said, a real loss to the community.

Feb 26, 2024 - 6:53:05 PM

3388 posts since 2/18/2009

I'm sorry to hear of Ken's passing. He certainly made very nice looking banjos.

Feb 26, 2024 - 6:56:41 PM
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14850 posts since 6/5/2011

I only knew Ken thru BHO ... can't add much to what's been posted.    Condolences to family and friends.  RIP Sir. 

Feb 26, 2024 - 7:10:57 PM



3581 posts since 1/31/2005

So sorry to hear the sad news. Ken will surly be missed. Such a wealth of knowledge and beautiful Banjos. May God Bless the family and give them strength in the coming days. RIP

Feb 26, 2024 - 7:31:17 PM
Players Union Member



138 posts since 5/30/2016

So sorry to hear this. Ken built me a banjo a few years ago.
I will miss chatting with him over email about cool instruments.
He will be missed. I was hoping to chat in person with him some day.

Feb 26, 2024 - 7:34:16 PM

1100 posts since 10/31/2007

What a loss! Sorry to hear this news.

His design work was even greater than his banjo work. What a talented man he was.

Edited by - lazlototh on 02/26/2024 19:37:03

Feb 26, 2024 - 7:51:44 PM

2515 posts since 2/7/2008

I’m stunned. Ken was so incredibly giving of his extensive knowledge and his work was of great inspiration to me.

My thoughts go out to his family for their loss (and ours)

Feb 26, 2024 - 7:56 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


27885 posts since 6/25/2005

My condolences to his friends and family….
He was a creative maker, and generous and thoughtful with his commentary and posting on Banjo Hangout. I will miss his posts, which were always worth the reading.

Feb 26, 2024 - 7:57:22 PM
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125 posts since 3/3/2008

This is horrible news.  I never met Ken in person but corresponded on BHO a few times and was very impressed with the Smithsonian documentary about him.  I was the next banjo on his list when I lost contact with him in November.  I was concerned that something may have happened but he never let on that he was having health issues.

If you haven't seen his website, I recommend that you take a look.  He produced an amazing variety of designs and was truly a great builder. 

He inspired me to do some of the banjo experimentation that I have been doing.  I wish that I would have gotten to meet him.

Last message I got from Ken 11/29/2023:

Hi Chris,

I did, and hope you did as well.  I haven’t forgotten, and you are at the top of the list.

... ... 

You understand I make everything by hand, so my products have a certain "hand” to them and are not perfect like something using CNC is— your peghead inlay is really nice!  If I did that design it would necessarily have a little wabi-sabi as will the banjo I make for you.

I won’t want a deposit untiI actually start working on it, and I can’t do that until I finish the ones I am in the last stages right now, clearing the deck for yours.

Hang in there,it won’t be long now.



requiescat in pace 

Edited by - euler357 on 02/26/2024 19:58:54

Feb 26, 2024 - 8:01:04 PM
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kat eyz


1173 posts since 10/1/2003

Every time i seen that Ken had made a post on a topic i was always excited to read his comments because it was very rare that i didnt agree with it or i simply learned something banjo that i didnt know before ....gonna miss him ! Well wishes to his family and close friends

Feb 26, 2024 - 8:05:47 PM

760 posts since 11/9/2021

I am only a recent member of the banjo community, and even I can see how much this man means to banjo players at large. RIP, Mr LeVan.

Feb 26, 2024 - 8:12:05 PM

16017 posts since 12/2/2005

Sad news indeed. Count me among those who never met Ken, but respected him enormously for his exquisite work and his obvious delight in teaching and helping others.

May God welcome him home, and grant His grace on those who mourn Ken. I'm sure there are many.

Feb 26, 2024 - 8:14:40 PM

1072 posts since 2/17/2005

Oh man, I really loved Ken's whole outlook and thought he was a wonderful craftsman. So sorry to hear this news. RIP.

Feb 26, 2024 - 8:17:11 PM



3559 posts since 2/1/2012

I had a bad feeling about Ken as he hadn't posted here for quite a while. I sent him a couple of emails a short while ago to see how he was but didn't get any response which I knew was not like Ken as he was always very quick to respond in the past. He was someone I had a great deal of respect for and will be missed.


Feb 26, 2024 - 8:18:12 PM

Bart Veerman


5685 posts since 1/5/2005

A huge loss and condolences to his family.

Does anyone know if Ken's son will be taking over?

Feb 26, 2024 - 8:47:30 PM

4981 posts since 9/12/2016

he was a good one --hate to hear it--the saddest of life for sure

Feb 26, 2024 - 8:49:29 PM

1651 posts since 11/10/2022

Early last year I almost had Ken convinced to build me a starwars themed banjo. He and I emailed several times behind the scenes on various topics. He had good advice.

You rarely see a LeVan for sale used. People love those jers he made. Meticulously.

RIP Ken, the best

Feb 26, 2024 - 8:56:58 PM
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61937 posts since 12/14/2005

Words fail me.

Feb 26, 2024 - 9:19:42 PM

3566 posts since 12/31/2005

What a nice guy. I poked him a couple of times with questions, and he was always very gracious with his time. And what a great artist. Many of his banjos are just stunning in their beauty and originality.

Feb 26, 2024 - 9:41:51 PM



14099 posts since 12/11/2003

Sad news this. I only knew Ken through the BHO, but like Mike said, when I saw that Ken had made a post I would stop and read it knowing that he had imparted a bit of his knowledge and wisdom.
RIP Ken.

Feb 27, 2024 - 12:08:58 AM

4804 posts since 3/28/2008

May peace be upon him.

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