Dorothy S. Kennedy passed away on March 10, 2021. Born in Highland, Illinois, on June 12th, 1922, to Solomon and Mary Suppiger, Dorothy was part of the 4th generation of Swiss Germans in that small community. Her family manufactured exquisite swiss embroidery on the massive wooden machines brought over from Switzerland. In 1936 her family moved to San Jose where she attended San Jose High School. From there Dorothy went to Stanford University, graduating with an economics degree in 1944. Next was Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles and she later worked painting murals and designing windows for large department stores. After the war, on a blind date, she was introduced to Donald Kennedy. He could not pronounce her last name properly that night at the dance, nor for weeks after. They were married in 1946. Don joined his family's title insurance business when it had only one office in Santa Ana. The enterprise grew to be a Fortune 500 company, now known as First American Financial. Dorothy and Don were generous donors to many charities, including Bowers Museum (where there is a wing named for them), Chapman University, St. Joseph Hospital, and St. Joseph Ballet now called The Wooden Floor. Dorothy was a critical part of her husband's business life. She influenced the architecture of the First American offices and was instrumental in creating the display of historical photos of Orange County that cover the walls of the Santa Ana headquarters and are open to the public for viewing. She could cook a fabulous dinner for 6 and serve it effortlessly a mere 3 hours after getting a call from Don saying he had some people in from Des Moines. Years after, at some title convention, Dorothy would also effortlessly remember them and the names of their children. Dorothy Kennedy was an artist in every sense of the word at a time and in a culture that did not encourage such bohemian attributes, especially in women. She studied art at Stanford in classes with (a handsome, she offered) Richard Diebenkorn. Though her future husband admired her talent he admonished, "Don't tell my mother you're an artist" before meeting her future mother-in-law. Soon both were ardent fans. She painted landscapes of Southern California in the 1950's, beautiful wet-technique watercolors of ranches, orange groves, and ocean, the Dory fisherman fleet of Newport Beach, the plaza in the city of Orange, and a street in El Modena (some pictured above). Don was never happier than being recognized at a gallery showing with the words, "Oh are you Dorothy Kennedy's husband?" She captured her life in her watercolors. Every trip ended with paintings being unpacked from her suitcase at home. She was very generous and gave many away (if anyone has a landscape painting, we'd love for you to get in touch with us). She went on to paint beautiful florals and had a lucrative career with these decorative works, including a showing in Nanking, China. Dorothy was the greatest of mothers and loved her kids, Parker Kennedy, Liz Myers and Amy Healey, and their spouses. She adored her 6 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. She was a treasured wife for 66 years, a steadfast friend, and a remarkable artist. She led a very happy life. And a long one, 98 years.
Published in Orange County Register on Apr. 4, 2021.