On January 11, 2019, David Michael Kennedy died in Hamburg, New York, in his 69th year. Although recently, Michael has been a frequent visitor to St. Marys, only a few residents realize the impact he made on this community.
Michael’s mother, Isabelle Chesterfield Kennedy was born in 1915, the daughter of James and Annie Chesterfield. They lived at 36 Ontario Street North, the large brick house built in 1857 by Lauriston Cruttenden, one of the town’s earliest settlers. James, a merchant and a town councillor, died in 1918, a victim of the Spanish flu epidemic. Annie was left a widow, raising six children through the Depression. Somehow she managed to send the two youngest, Norman and Isabelle, to university. Both of them did very well. Isabelle earned a business degree from Western University, a rare achievement for a woman of that time. Annie Chesterfield died in 1940.
Isabelle served overseas with the Canadian Army and married Charles Kennedy in 1949. They had two sons. Michael, the older, was born in Toronto in 1950. Eventually, Isabelle moved to the Buffalo area and raised her sons while developing a successful career in real estate. But she never forgot St. Marys and her childhood here. She told her sons stories of swimming in the quarry and riding her bicycle out into the country. She died in 2003 in Lockport, New York. In her will, she requested that a trust fund be established to honour her mother Annie. The income from this fund was to be used to benefit facilities and organizations within St. Marys.
Michael Kennedy, her son, began to explore the ways that his could be done but wanted this fund to mean even more. He re-named it the Annie and Isabelle Chesterfield Fund so that it commemorated both his grandmother and his mother. He established this fund within the Stratford Perth Community Foundation in 2010 and since that time, thousands of dollars in grants have been awarded to St. Marys applicants. The Community Players, the Friendship Centre, the Library, the Youth Centre, the Forest School at Little Falls, the Aquatics program and the St. Marys Museum are among the beneficiaries.
Michael took great pleasure in attending the annual Community Impact ceremony held each year by the SPCF, an event that allowed him to meet the recipients of the grants and learn more about their special projects. He also was proud to support various women’s shelters in Stratford.
Recently, because of ill health, he retired from his work as a mechanic and spent more time connecting with his Canadian relatives and visiting St. Marys. He explored the possibility of relocating to this community. He was impressed with the friendliness of the town and, during his stops at the St. Marys Museum, he mentioned the kindness of those who had made him feel welcome: Dave Stewart at the Sunset Diner, the staff at Jenny’s and at Stonetown Coffee, Mayor Al Strathdee, the members and the staff at the Friendship Centre.
He was very impressed with the recent collaborative exhibit, funded by a SPCF grant, Ink and Imagination. Last November, he attended Reed Needles’ seminar on the history of Children’s Book Illustration, presented at the Museum. He also came back in early December for the Museum’s Christmas Open House, particularly enjoying the music of the Stonetown Minstrels.
During the Christmas holidays, he left a phone message, wishing everyone a very Happy 2019. He said he wanted to become more involved with this community and hoped to attend the Museum’s Heritage Fair on February 22. That was our last message from him.
Michael Kennedy’s funeral is Thursday, January 24, in Blasdell, New York. He will be buried beside his mother in the St. Marys Cemetery at 11 o’clock, Saturday morning, January 26, 2019