For more than 30 years, there was just about one thing — going to church notwithstanding — that locals could count on each and every Sunday … and that was hearing the voice of X.Ray Burns (that’s not a typo — he spelled it X.Ray — and we’re told he was a stickler for people spelling it the right way) on the radio alongside his longtime friend Glen Jones.
Sunday afternoon radio will never be the same again — nor will this world — because Burns, whose real name was Kenneth Green and who lived his entire life in Kearny, died Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, at Villa Marie Claire in Saddle River following a bout with cancer.
He was just 57.
If you’re surprised to only now be learning he had cancer — don’t be. Burns kept his diagnosis close to the heart and didn’t share it with many. In fact, around the time he died, Jones was on the air — doing his show solo — announcing that X.Ray was in the fight for his life with cancer for the very first time. Though he had missed a few shows, few actually knew why.
And, of course, little did Jones know that just a few minutes after he announced X.Ray’s cancer diagnosis, he’d be announcing his friend since 1980 had just died.
“Five minutes before the first mic break — I told you he wasn’t listening — X.Ray Burns, Ken Green, passed away,” Jones said live on the air, clearly fighting back tears of sadness over the loss of his friend. “This is not a joke. I know it’s like a professional wrestling show this program sometimes in that when Burns is filling in for me or vice-versa, we say things like, ‘Glen Jones is dead,’ and stuff. But this is very real.”
It was almost as if it all happened according to plan. Burns always said he wanted to go whilst on the air. And while he wasn’t literally on the air, he was, in spirit, that day — as the masses learned of his diagnosis. He held on long enough that his time of death coincided with the noon to 3 p.m. timeslot the show had for the longest time.
A little about X.Ray
He was born in Kearny and was a lifelong resident. He was a real estate appraiser for Paradise Appraisals in West Caldwell for the last 20 years. Prior to that, he worked for Ebert Appraisal Company in Cedar Grove for 10 years.
He was also one of a rare breed — a Republican who lived in Kearny and Hudson County.
Under the moniker “X.Ray Burns,” he joined the WFMU, 91.1 FM air staff in 1986 as co-host with Glen Jones. He also did the program solo when Glen was on assignment. Together, Jones and Green broadcast from locations along the Jersey Shore, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, New York’s Museum of Television and Radio and in Jersey City (the studios proper), where they hosted an annual “Kill the Holidays Party,” with revelers posing with Green, who would dress up as “Santa Clown,” rich with makeup inspired by his favorite band, “The Insane Clown Posse.”
People are gonna miss X.Ray … a lot
Fans and friends alike took to social media last week to offer tributes to their late friend once word of his death began to spread.
“At a loss. I wish I could thank Ken Green now for the countless, countless Sundays I spent in his ace company over these 23 years of listening. All love, too, to our Jonesy — may he always be the last man standing,” listener Gordon wrote.
Said listener Stuart: “Sundays on FMU has been my lifeline to my previous NY/NJ life. So I log in today to listen, see the GoFundMe campaign, and then hear that X.Ray has passed. If only we had known the real situation for the last few weeks, he could have known that the campaign had earned its goal while he was still around. Godspeed you crazy bastard.”
Others posted tributes to Ken’s obituary tribute wall on Thiele Reid’s website.
Herb Gimbel, a retired deacon at St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, wrote: “Ken was a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend and a neighbor. He will be remembered so fondly by all of us. His smile will be unforgettable, his laughter will be unforgettable and Ken will be unforgettable.”
Christine Henneken wrote: “My deepest condolences to Sharon and Agnes, family and friends.
I will forever remember Ken as the guy who looked out for the underdog. He had a heart of gold and a soul to match. When he found me on Facebook several years ago, he was quick the offer kind words when remembering the girl he knew in KHS. Classy, always classy. Nobody ever described me in that way. It touched me deeply. I shall remember those words always. RIP Ken. Until we meet again.”
Yours truly knew him more as Ken Green from his frequent visits to the former Sunset Deli on Kearny Avenue, where I worked, part-time, from 1997 to 1999. We’d always talk politics and though we rarely agreed on, well, anything, we always parted ways with laughter and a handshake knowing there were absolutely no hard feelings.
After I moved to Florida in 2012, we reconnected via social media after nearly a decade of having no contact at all. It was as though not a day had passed in-between. And though I only got to see him one time following my 2016 return to Kearny — we bumped into each other at Foodtown, North Arlington, of all places — that short 10-minute encounter still remains one of the highlights of my last three years.
There was a wake for X.Ray last week at the Thiele Reid Funeral Home, Kearny. His funeral was private — because if it hadn’t been for family only, there likely would have been too many people there from all over the tri-state area — and not enough room to seat them all at the Thiele Reid Funeral Home. He truly had legions of fans who will always remember him.
With that said, keep in mind a memorial service will take place at the studios of WFMU in Jersey City at a later date. (We’ll let you know when as soon as we know.)
Ken/X.Ray is survived by his wife, Sharon (nee Romansky) Green; his mother, Agnes (nee Smith) Green Shaffery and her husband, Raymond; one sister, Deborah Green and one brother, Richard Green. He was the brother-in-law of Brian and Tina Romansky and uncle of Cameron Green and Sabrina and Eric Romansky. He also leaves his mother-in-law Lorraine (nee Stern) Romansky and her husband, Wayne.
He was predeceased by his father, Walter Green Jr., in 1992.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to www.gofundme.com/xrayburns.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.