Joseph W. Hennessy
1934 - 2020
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Joseph W. Hennessy

Nov. 14, 1934 - May 9, 2020

SOUTH BEND, IN - Joseph Hennessy, 85, a former business executive and civic leader in South Bend, died Saturday, May 9, in Phoenix, Arizona, with Shirley, his wife of 64 years at his side.

For almost 40 years, Mr. Hennessy built an impressive career in insurance and financial planning. He joined his father, Joseph W. Hennessy in 1958, where they developed a top producing life insurance agency for Jefferson National Life Insurance. He was a life member of Million Dollar Round Table which recognizes the top agents in life insurance. He held several professional designations including CLU, CHFC, and Registered Securities Principal.

The son of Joseph W. and Evelyn Hennessy, Mr. Hennessy was born in Binghamton, NY on November 14, 1934. He graduated in 1952 from Central Catholic High School as its Valedictorian. He followed in his father's footsteps and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1956. He married his high school sweetheart, Shirley Wilcox in June 1956 and they immediately moved to San Diego, CA where Joe served as an Officer in the U.S. Navy. They returned to South Bend in 1958 and lived there until 2006, when they retired to Phoenix, Arizona.

His sons said their Dad was focused and hardworking. Joe told his family it started in his teens when he traveled to Binghamton, NY each summer to work on his uncle's farm. It was during these trips Joe met the love of his life, Shirley Wilcox. He said during these summers he gained confidence as his uncle gave him roles with great responsibility, allowed him independence to “play” (which may be why he placed strict curfews on his sons) and of course time with Shirley.

Mr. Hennessy had many passions outside of work. He and Shirley devoted themselves to their sons' involvement in Cub and Boy Scouts. Joe would go on camping, hiking and canoeing trips with his sons. He took great joy watching four of his sons earn their Eagle Scout.

In the early 1970's, Joe was asked to join the South Bend Community Schools Board and took great pride in handing his sons their high school diplomas.

Joe and Shirley raised their five sons in South Bend. Kevin (Lori), Terry (Annette), Joe (Tammy), Mark (Kathleen), and Dan (Valerie) now live all over the country. Joe and Shirley enjoyed frequent reunions with their boys. Grandpa Joe enjoyed time with his 14 grandchildren, their six spouses, his three great-grandchildren, and passed knowing that three more great-grandchildren were on the way.

Joe is survived by his sister, Moni Murdock (Bud), Shirley's sister Margaret (Marty), and many nieces and nephews.

Memorial services will be held at a later date. Joe and Shirley were active at the Andre House Soup Kitchen, where memorial donations could be directed in his memory: Andre House, PO Box 2014, Phoenix, AZ 85001-2014; website:

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Published in South Bend Tribune on May 23, 2020.
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