Shortly before dawn, at 5:24 a.m., on July 2, 2014, John Paul (Jack) Kennedy of Ruidoso passed away peacefully from a serious illness at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His wife, Jan, was by his side, and he was surrounded by his children, his sister, and his sister-in-law. He was 73 years old.
Jack Kennedy was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on May 27, 1941. He was the second child and first son of Rose Lena (Frates) and John Charles Kennedy.
Jack was a spirited child who was known to give the nuns plenty of things to pray for. He attended parochial school in New Bedford all the way through high school. He graduated from Monsigneur Coyle High School in Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1958.
In 1962, Jack graduated from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, with a degree in history. He was the drum major of the band, an early indication of his life in uniform, marching to the beat of his own heart. As a participant in the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in college, Jack was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army upon graduation with a report-in date the following summer of 1963.
During the year in between, Jack married Suzanne Fournier in August 1962 and began a job teaching honors English at Normandin Junior High in New Bedford.
Just shy of completing his teaching year, the Army bumped up his report-in date to May 1963, requiring him to take a military leave of absence that ended up lasting 26 years.
Jack immediately learned to balance a successful military career with being a dedicated father. He welcomed daughter Mary in 1963, daughter Ann in 1964, daughter Elizabeth in 1969, daughter Sara in 1972, son John in 1973, daughter Onalee in 1980, and son Paul in 1984.
Among Jack's many life accomplishments, he served his country with a distinguished, decorated, and devoted military career. Shortly after joining the Army he applied to flight school and was accepted, earning his wings in 1965. He served two tours in Vietnam: from 1966-1967 in Vung Tau as a fixed wing pilot conducting reconnaissance flights and from 1972-1973 in DaNang as commander of F Troop, 8th Cavalry, an air cavalry troop with a call sign of Blue Ghosts.
His many decorations include the National Defense ribbon, the Vietnamese Service ribbon, the Army Service ribbon, the Overseas Service ribbon, the Vietnamese cross of gallantry, and the Vietnamese Armed Services ribbon. He also received Master Aviator Wings in addition to three bronze stars for heroism.
After retiring from the military as a Colonel, Jack worked briefly for McDonnell-Douglas before opening his own Allstate Insurance agency in 1992 in Mesa, Arizona. He started this new phase of his life marrying Janet (Jan) Neuharth in 1992. The couple enjoyed traveling and visiting family and friends across the country. She was his rock, his friend, and his guiding beacon.
The couple retired to the cool, piney woods of Ruidoso, New Mexico, in 2004, and Jack turned over his thriving insurance business to his son John.
One of his favorite activities was arguing politics with vigorous debate at his daily coffee circle in Ruidoso. Seeing his children all together was another great joy, as was the deep partnership with his loving wife, Jan.
As one close friend stated, "he lived, loved, and contributed to the world in so many ways." He is remembered for his stellar and unparalleled character, leadership, and encouraging outlook. He served others in thousands of quiet ways that added up to a life that made a profound difference.
Jack is preceded in death by his mother, Rose Lena; his father, John; and his brother-in-law Bob Clerc.
Jack is survived by his wife Jan Kennedy of Ruidoso, New Mexico; his sister Maribel Clerc of Canyon Lake, Texas; his daughter Mary Kennedy Thompson and her husband Will of Waco, Texas; his daughter Ann Kennedy Patterson and her husband Neil of Lawton, Oklahoma; his daughter Elizabeth Kennedy Hallmark and her husband Gary of Austin, Texas; his daughter Sara Kennedy Sheskey of Darrington, Washington; his son John Kennedy and his wife Angel of Gilbert, Arizona; his daughter Onalee Kennedy Barnes and her husband Matthew of Copperas Cove, Texas; his son Paul Kennedy of Copperas Cove, Texas; his grandchildren Sarah Thompson Goodrich and her husband Marc, Brian Thompson, Alaina Hallmark, Kathryn Patterson Adams and her husband Corbin, Rachel Patterson, Bailey Hallmark, Megan Patterson, Matthew Patterson, Alex Sheskey, Maria Patterson, Kerry Patterson, Luke Patterson, Alyssa Kennedy, Madelyn Kennedy, and Talia Kennedy; great-grandchild Wyatt William Thompson; nieces Linda Clerc Butler and Melissa Clerc, and nephew Paul Clerc.
A Celebration of Life Ceremony for Jack was held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at LaGrone Funeral Chapel, 341 Sudderth Drive, Ruidoso, New Mexico, followed by burial with full military honors on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, at 11 a.m., at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, 5300 Fred Wilson Blvd, El Paso, Texas.
The family welcomes donations to be sent in his name to the Army Aviation Association of America's Scholarship Fund (details at http://www.quad-a.org/; donations can be made directly at https://quad-a.ejoinme.org/MyPages/DonationPage/tabid/224843/Default.aspx).
Special thanks to all the caring staff, nurses, and doctors at Lincoln County Memorial Hospital in Ruidoso and Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, especially the attending nurses and doctors in CCU at Presbyterian Hospital on July 1-2.
Special thanks also to all the family and friends who sent prayers, love, and support.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.lagroneruidoso.com.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds,-and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of-wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor ever eagle flew-
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God
LaGrone Funeral Chapel
341 Sudderth Drive Ruidoso, NM 88345
Published in Ruidoso News from July 8 to Aug. 7, 2014