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Dr. James A. Kennedy

1920 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Oct. 10, 1920 - Jan. 17, 2016

Longtime Physician of Davis, dies at 95.

Dr. James A. Kennedy, longtime resident of Davis, who spent 40 years of dedicated service as a family physician, passed away peacefully at his home in Davis on the morning of Jan. 17. A man who was known for his calm and peaceful caregiving, he was the fifth doctor in Davis in 1956 when he started his practice. He was one of the last "country doctors" in Yolo County continuing to provide house calls until his retirement in 1996.

Dr. Kennedy was born Oct. 10, 1920 to James Leo Kennedy and Margaret Josephine Kennedy n‚e Murrin in Swissvale, Alleghany County, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Dr. Kennedy's early years were marked by tragedy and change. In March of 1928 he developed pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. His mother and father would visit every day until one day when only his father came. His mother had become sick as well and on March 27, 1928 his mother died from lobar pneumonia, for which there was no effective treatment at the time.

Following the passing of his mother when he was eight, it became obvious that his father could not care for the three children, Hugh, Jim, and Tom. To make ends meet, his dad continued to work at the Edgar Thompson Steel Mill in North Braddock and the boys were shipped to their mother's childhood home in Murrinsville, PA, 60 miles north. There, Dr. Kennedy was raised by his elderly great-aunts and uncles on the Murrin family farm. Dr. Kennedy often told stories to his children of the times that he had in Murrinsville, from driving in 68-year-old Uncle Jim's 1925 Dodge Roadster to playing altar boy with his brothers Hugh (who would later become a Jesuit priest) and Thomas (who would have a successful and rewarding career working for US Steel).

Dr. Kennedy was educated at Wood's School, a one room school in Murrinsville, and later was sent to boarding schools including Xavier Hall, a Catholic boarding school run by the Sisters of Mercy near Latrobe, PA. After graduating from high school, Dr. Kennedy moved to State College, PA, attending and graduating from Penn State in 1942 with a degree in Animal Husbandry. He was a member of the Alpha Zeta Fraternity and remained lifelong friends with his fraternity brothers. He also remained a committed devotee of the Penn State Nittany Lion's football team and traveled frequently when they made it to a bowl game.

Following graduation, Dr. Kennedy entered the Army Air Corps to serve the country. Although he had a desire to become a navigator on a bomber, he was instead trained as a fighter pilot and flew the P-51 Mustang (a direction he was later thankful for). He was assigned to the 308th fighter squadron and was stationed in the North African and Southern European theatres where he escorted bombers on missions into Eastern Europe. He rarely discussed his time in the service but he was extremely proud of his role in the war and continued his lifelong passion for flight, maintaining his pilot's license into his 70's.

Following WWII, Dr. Kennedy returned to the family farm in Pennsylvania, intending to make a living as a farmer. After several years of crop failures, he realized he needed to find another, more stable profession. He traveled cross county on an Indian Chief motorcycle predating the interstate highway system to look for guidance and visit his father who then lived in Douglas AZ. Career counseling directed him to medical school and he was admitted to Temple University, graduating in 1952 with his MD. Following a short stint as a medical practitioner in Grove City, PA, Dr. Kennedy moved to California after accepting a position at the Los Angeles County General Hospital where he worked as a Physician in the jail ward. It was while in "jail" that he met his future wife, Renie Castello. After a short courtship, they were married at Mission San Buenaventura on Jan. 6, 1956 and settled down in the small university town of Davis (then a population of 7,000!). It was here that Dr. Kennedy would spend the next 40 years practicing medicine, initially at 216 F Street and then 635 Anderson Road. From 1956 until his retirement at the age of 75 in 1996, Dr. Kennedy was a witness to the growth of this small town and took care of its citizens. One of the most enjoyable aspects of his medical career was delivering babies to witness one of the wonders of life. During his career it is thought that he delivered in excess of one thousand babies. After retiring he was active in growing butternut squash for donation to the food pantry and helped with deliveries to the needy until he could no longer drive. He and Renie were able to travel overseas several times in retirement, but he enjoyed taking care of his land and vegetable garden.

Dr. Kennedy is survived by Renie, his wife of 60 years and their seven children including Cornelius and his wife Rosanna of Los Gatos, Ann Leigh of Chico, Patricia Brown of Davis, Kathleen Montgomery and her husband Mitch of Winters, James Jr. and his wife Beverly of Clovis, John and his wife Lisa of Santa Rosa and Margaret Josephine Borth and her husband Chris of Alameda. Dr. Kennedy is also survived by 11 grand-children, Arlene, Nola, Andre, Bradley, Megan, Colten, Kayla, Samuel, Isabelle, Kellen and Ian; and three great-grandchildren, Michelle, Eva and Ella. He was deeply loved by all of his family and will be missed.

Dr. Kennedy was deeply religious throughout his life and attended St. James Catholic Church. A funeral mass will be given on Jan. 23, at 10 a.m., and will be followed by a reception at St. James Catholic Church, 1275 B St., Davis. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be directed to the Yolo Food Bank.
Published in Daily Democrat on Jan. 21, 2016
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