Thank you, The London Free Press, for your tribute to our partner and friend, John Kennedy.
Dan Brown · The London Free Press · Posted: May 25, 2021
Known for his can-do attitude and community spirit, John Kennedy was the kind of guy who would pull a stranger’s car out of a snowy ditch not only because it was the right thing to do, but also because it was an adventure.
Kennedy, a London lawyer, died May 16 at 70 after a long battle with cancer.
Kennedy’s oldest son recalls driving back to London with him from Sarnia during a snowstorm as a teenager. When his father spotted a blue Ford Taurus that had gone off the road, “he saw that as an opportunity to test our mettle,” Christopher Kennedy said.
The younger Kennedy figured calling a tow truck would be in order. “Are you kidding?” his father said. “I just bought new tow and axle straps. We need to test them out!”
Christopher’s clothes — not his Sunday best, but close — were destroyed as he helped his dad get the two Taurus motorists back on the road. When they got back into the cab, the elder Kennedy was grinning at his son. “Hey, that wasn’t that hard, was it?”
“He’s my favourite man on Earth,” said Michelle Quintyn, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries, Ontario Great Lakes. “I’m going to feel John’s presence for the rest of my life.”
Along with Boler Mountain and the now-defunct Orchestra London, Goodwill was one of the organizations that benefited from Kennedy’s can-do attitude.
“He was really community-minded,” echoed Jan DeRose, a fellow Boler board member. “He was always chatting up everybody and looking for talent for the board at Boler.”
Kennedy was born July 18, 1950, in Halifax and came to the Forest City as a child. After earning an HBA from Western University’s Ivey Business School, he got his law degree from the University of Toronto before being called to the bar in 1977.
In an online tribute, Siskinds LLP noted he practised business law before it became common for lawyers to specialize in one area.
Kennedy was more interested in solutions than problems, those who worked with him say. “John recognized that the essence of what he did was to solve business law problems for busy entrepreneurs who needed responsive solution-oriented advice and service,” the law firm said. “There was no quit in him.”
“He was a get-it-done person,” Quintyn said. “When he’s good to go, there’s no stopping him.”
Siskinds bought the firm Kennedy had helped to found, Aston Berg Kennedy & Morrissey, in 2002, and he became partner at Siskinds. Christopher says his father was still working up until a month before his death, having planned to work until he was 75.
In his February letter of resignation to the Boler board, Kennedy displayed his trademark zest for life, noting having cancer had given him empathy. “I now fully understand how my dog Max felt on his trips to the vet,” he wrote.
“He loved life, but he loved sharing it with people, which drove me crazy as a kid,” Christopher said. On one trip to the firm to pull some files, the younger Kennedy marveled as his father took the time to catch up with the security guard on duty, asking him about his grandkids. “That’s why people loved him,” Christopher said. “He was genuinely interested in their life.”
Kennedy’s family has many memories of cottaging in the Muskokas and ski trips to remember their patriarch by — as well as his bon mots. When he turned 16, Christopher received an antique pocket watch from his father, who told him, “The only thing I can’t give you is time.”
Londoners can expect to hear about upcoming tributes to Kennedy now that he’s gone. He was a humble man, those who knew him say, preferring any accolades be made public only after he was gone — when he couldn’t prevent them.
“I’ve always bugged John that we needed to do something to honour him and he would have none of it,” DeRose said.
“He kind of hid in the background. You couldn’t give him a compliment,” added Quintyn, who notes Goodwill plans to create a scholarship in his name.