John Francis Kennedy
May 20, 1943 - May 12, 2021
After four years of perseverance, John Francis Kennedy passed peacefully on Wednesday, May 12th in Santa Rosa, California. He had valiantly fought both Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gerig Disease) and Frontotemporal Dementia/Deficiency (FTD), staying true to his theme song "I Will Survive", which he will do in the hearts of all who knew him. Unfortunately, his weakened body was not able to combat the pneumonia that he suffered, and after three days in an ICU unit, it was time to say goodbye.
John was born in Troy, New York, to Lorraine Margaret Delehanty and Francis (Frank) Joseph Kennedy. He attended Catholic Central High School in Troy, and still had several friends from his graduation class whom he regularly saw at reunions.
John received his bachelor's degree from Niagara University, and his master's degree in English from the University of Dayton. John remained involved with Dayton, and was featured in an article in the university magazine for his support of their programs for LGBT students.
For two years John worked at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where he taught English literature. John then returned to Ohio and studied at The Ohio State University where he worked in the office of the School of Pharmacy, and as a residence hall supervisor. He completed his doctorate in Counseling, Business, and Student Development. During his time in Columbus John came out as a gay man and became involved in the local chapter of DignityUSA, a support organization for LGBT Catholics.
John again headed west, moving to Fort Collins, Colorado, where he was the Director of Admissions at Colorado State University. John continued his involvement with DignityUSA, joining the chapter in Denver. On a retreat for gay and lesbian Catholics at the El Pomar Retreat Center in Colorado Springs, John met William (Bill) Baird on Memorial Day weekend in 1978.
John and Bill dated for over a year, during which time they designed and built a townhouse in Fort Collins. On September 15, 1979, they held a Commitment Ceremony and Mass in their home with friends and family.
John and Bill both were offered job opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area, and moved there in 1983. John left higher education and became a financial officer at Crocker Bank. After a year, that position ended, and John moved back into higher education as the Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students at Dominican College in San Rafael. That proved to be an ideal position for John, and although he had only committed to being at the college for three years, he stayed with the school as it evolved to become Dominican University of California. John became a memorable and loved fixture at the University. Immediately after John's passing President Mary Marcy posted the following on the university's website:
"In his almost 30-year career as the Head of Student Life at Dominican, John served as a wise mentor to thousands of students, a generous colleague and friend. John had the remarkable ability to combine a clear, strong sense of purpose with a gentle approach and a delightful sense of humor. He was among the first to welcome our families on move-in day, and one of the last to bid farewell to our graduates – usually with a big hug – at commencement.
Famous for singing "I Will Survive" at every holiday party (and memorably, together with the entire tent at his final commencement), for his love of sweets and commitment to Ice Cream Fridays, and for his deep compassion, John leaves a lasting legacy at Dominican through the lives that he touched and the culture he nourished."
John preferred the version of "I Will Survive" by his favorite diva, Diana Ross. John attended numerous of her concerts, with John and Bill often sitting in the front row and getting at least fleeting attention from Ms. Ross.
John had several families. While an only child, John became an immediate part of Bill's family, the Dominican University family, the church family that they shared at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in San Francisco, people in DignityUSA from around the country, residents of Fountaingrove Lodge (LGBT retirement community) in Santa Rosa, and from several organizations. He enjoyed attending events with friends in the Black Tie Men's Club, and retreats with Body Electric. One of John's many friends posted this on Facebook:
"I met John in 1995 at a Body Electric retreat in Northern California, and ever since then he played an inspiring pivotal role in my spiritual, emotional growth. And he, being the Sage that he was, was the first of several guides who helped lead me to my life today in California. With everlasting gratitude and deep appreciation for all you gave to Bill, to your work, and to anyone in this world who had the privilege to know you. You shall live forever for me in the heartbeat of every Ross song, and more. Rest in peace."
John loved to travel. He and Bill had traveled to Europe several times, to Indonesia and Thailand, as well as numerous vacations to Hawaii and to Provincetown. After John's initial diagnosis in 2018, they completed "bucket list" trips to Machu Picchu, African game preserves, a cruise through the Panama Canal, and a cruise along the coast of Norway to witness the northern lights above the Arctic Circle.
John is survived by his partner/husband of 42 years, William Baird of San Francisco and Santa Rosa, and by a host of friends that John acquired over his lifetime.
Donations in John's name may be made to the Golden West Chapter of the ALS Foundation (http://webgw.alsa.org/goto/JohnFrancisKennedy
) or to the John Kennedy Endowment Fund for Student Life at Dominican University of California (http://dominican.edu/makeagift
A funeral mass will be held at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in San Francisco, 1490 19th Street, at 11:00am on July 30, followed by a reception beginning at 12:30pm in the church hall. The service and the reception will be streamed on Zoom. For COVID-19 restrictions refer to the church's website www.stteresasf.org/COVID19.
It is requested that those attending in person be vaccinated for COVID-19. To RSVP or for information, including the Zoom link, please send a message to [email protected]
. An RSVP for the service and/or reception would be appreciated, but is not required.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Jul. 2 to Jul. 4, 2021.