La Lumiere Says Goodbye to Beloved Father of Headmaster Michael Kennedy ’86

July 18, 2013



Father of 11, accomplished surgeon and community servant James Raymond Kennedy, M.D., passed away in his home from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Born January 25, 1936 in Joliet, Illinois, Dr. Kennedy resided and practiced medicine in Kankakee, Illinois for 20 years, and has lived the last 27 years in Michigan City, Indiana.

In recent years, he enjoyed reading the Chicago Tribune’s “Today in History” and the obituaries. What piqued his interest was hearing about the many activities and accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. Dr. Kennedy’s life could best be characterized by his medical career, his service to his community, and the accolades he received throughout his life.

The son of Martin Hayes Kennedy and Mary Louise (Lennon) Kennedy, he is survived by his spouse of 53 years, Betsy (Finneran) Kennedy as well as a brother and sister, Martin Hayes Kennedy and Helen Ryan. His siblings, Mary Frances Kennedy and Daniel L. Kennedy, preceded him in death.

Dr. Kennedy is also survived by his 11 children and 28 grandchildren: James, Jr. (Mara), of Charlottesville, VA; John F., of Chicago, IL; Mary (Mark) McCullagh, of Charlotte, NC; Kathleen Kennedy (Marty Whalen), of La Porte, IN; Liz (Craig) Miller, of Colorado Springs, CO; Molly (Anton) Peddinghaus, of Kankakee, IL; Michael (Colleen), of La Porte, IN; David (Megan), of Chicago, IL; Sarah Kennedy (Patrick Bennett), of Chicago, IL; Patrick, of La Porte, IN; and Timothy (Amy), of Chicago, IL.

Also surviving are his grandchildren: Conor and Mack Kennedy; Hayes, Nora and Erin McCullagh; Will, Rowan, Fiona and Martin Whalen; Mitchell, Libby and Anna Miller; Henry, Annika, Caroline and Johannes Peddinghaus; Lily, Joe and Patrick Kennedy; Colin, Brigid and Sally Kennedy; Sofia Torres-Kennedy, Andrew and Imogene Bennett; Clare, Maeve and Declan Kennedy.

Dr. Kennedy graduated from Joliet Catholic High School, the University of Notre Dame in 1957 and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in 1960. He served his internship and surgical residency at Cook County Hospital. This residency was interrupted to serve as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. A 20-year career as an accomplished surgeon was ended prematurely in 1988 with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Kennedy’s post-surgical career presented opportunities for teaching, continuing his own learning and imparting knowledge to many.

He lived the Jesuit motto ad majorem Dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God. It came as no surprise that, honoring his Jesuit training, Dr. Kennedy returned to Loyola as he discovered a new career as an educator. From 1989 – 2005, he served Loyola as assistant professor of surgery and retired as assistant professor of surgery emeritus. He also served as chairman of the Stritch School of Medicine Admissions Committee. Dr. Kennedy’s years at Loyola were marked by two invitations to be the baccalaureate speaker, as well as numerous awards including: Teacher of the Year Award, the Golden Apple Award, and the Dr. Juan Angelats Service Award. Kennedy’s career culminated in the awarding of the prestigious Stritch School Medal of Honor in 2000.

Throughout his career Dr. Kennedy held numerous appointments including: Diplomate of the American Board of Surgery 1968 and re-certification in 1980, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, member of the Chicago Surgical Society (vice-president), Illinois Surgical Society (president), chief of staff and chief of surgery, Riverside Medical Center, Kankakee; and chief of surgery, board of directors and medical director, St Mary’s Hospital, Kankakee.

The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore captured Kennedy’s life philosophy, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Acting on his desire to provide services to those who were underserved, Kennedy was a founder and board member of the Dr. Martin Luther King Adult Education Center, co-founder and volunteer of the Northside Well Baby Clinic and the Doctor’s Outpatient Clinic all in Kankakee. Kennedy also started the Pembroke Clinic in Hopkins Park, IL and provided immunizations to the migrant workers in Milford, IL .

Committed to quality education and his community, Dr. Kennedy served the boards of Bishop McNamara Catholic High School in Kankakee, La Lumiere School in La Porte, IN, the YMCA and St. Teresa School in Kankakee.

In “retirement,” he and Betsy continued their commitment to service, enjoying volunteer work at St. Jude Hospital in St. Lucia, West Indies, teaching and supervising medical residents and students for a decade.

In 1993, Dr. Kennedy received the Humanitarian Award from St. Mary’s Hospital, Kankakee. In 2005 he and Betsy received the Rev. Louis J. Putz, CSC, Senior Service Award, from the University of Notre Dame.

Continuing his commitment to medical research, Dr. Kennedy donated his body to the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois. In lieu of a wake, the family will host a reception from 5:00p.m-8:00p.m on Monday, July 15 at the Long Beach Country Club, Long Beach, IN. A celebration of life Mass will be held at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, July 16 at Notre Dame Catholic Church, Michigan City. A memorial service will be held in Kankakee at a later summer date.

Arrangements are made by Ott-Haverstock Funeral Home (219-872-7291), Michigan City. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers that donations be made to Bishop McNamara Catholic High School in Kankakee, La Lumiere School in La Porte or the Samaritan Center in Michigan City.

Published in Chicago Tribune on July 13, 2013


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