Dan M. Kennedy
Our patron was born Gero Mathias Kennedy to Irish immigrant parents Joseph and Clara Kennedy on April 26, 1904 in Grand Rapids, MI. He had four sisters and two brothers, two of his sisters were Nuns.
He was approximately 9 years old when this picture was taken at his first Communion, he took the name of Daniel for his Confirmation name. Gero had made up his mind that someday he would change his name because of the confusion caused when his mother would call for him or his brother Gerald, so when he went into the Seminary in the 8th grade he changed his name to Daniel Mathias Kennedy. He decided after about one year in the Seminary that this was not the calling God had in mind for him, so he dropped out.
Dan married his wife Violet Ferris on September 20, 1927 in Grand Rapids, they had four children, Phyllis, James, Patricia Ann and Mary Jo. When he would set his mind to do something, he went full bore, which at times would upset his wife quite a bit.
He was a very lucky person. One time he bought a raffle ticket at St. James Parish in Grand Rapids and won … not just one … but TWO Welch ponies. He was afraid of the ponies so he sold one of them and kept the other (which they named Smokey) in a friends very large garage near their home. He purchased a buggy and a sleigh and quite often would hitch Smokey up to them and the Kennedy family would take rides down Western Avenue with Dan at the reigns. This picture of Smokey, Dan, Violet and daughter Patricia Ann was taken in 1942 as they headed out on just one of many buggy rides through town.
Dan was an extremely dynamic person and very dedicated to his family. He was a kind, loving husband and father. Whenever a group was together he would show the picture of his family, of which he was justly proud.
He was a prominent Catholic layman, Past Grand Knight of then Muskegon Council #706 and a local businessman. His untimely death on May 19, 1946, after suffering a heart attack following the initiation of new Knights at Sacred Heart hall, was a severe blow to his family, our Council and the community (just a few weeks prior he had had a complete physical at which he was told he was in perfect health).
Dan became a Knight in April 1941 and served as our Grand Knight from 1942-1945 and then later as a trustee. The rehabilitation of our Council was done largely through his efforts that membership was increased and the financial structure of the Council was stabilized. On several occasions he had told Priests in our community that “If I can get one man back to the Church through the Knights of Columbus, every effort will be paid for”. And he did bring back men … not just one man, but he brought many men back to the Church and brought them back to the fold.
His interests were widespread … there were the annual retreats, the work to further the interest of the Church through the Knights of Columbus and one great longing in his life … to get the groups together to work together in a united Catholic effort.
As a proprietor of the Kennedy Barber and Beauty Supply Company, he was widely known throughout Western Michigan by reason of his regular calls at hundreds of barbershops in this part of the state. Associates in business very rightly referred to him as a great leader in Catholic works.
Dan was indeed a life of true Catholic action. His life consisted of participation in the work of the Catholic Church. He was determined that the all-important work should be the construction of a Catholic Central High School. This zealous worker immediately identified himself with this movement by his own personal donation of $2,500.00, of which his wife was not aware of till he presented the check to his Church at a large public gathering. Several weeks prior to his death he made another donation of $100.00 for each of his four children, for the Catholic Central High School project, and that is a memorial to him today.
There was not a single Catholic work with which he was not prominently identified with, and his hard work which he so well performed was an inspiration to many. His motive was to gather a group of men who could work together from every section of our community and from every parish, the Catholic leaders, the Bishops and the Priests.
There were many acts of charity for which there is no acclaim. The fact that he was a prominent Catholic layman must have immediately associated his name with Catholicism in his business dealings and his civic life. He was known as a Catholic, and his dealings in the business world which were extensive and his activities in civic life, make for tolerance and make for a better appreciation of his living. His work with the Knights of Columbus will be legendary in our midst.
At the Rosary for Dan the night prior to his funeral, St. Jean’s Church was filled with men, it was an inspiration to the Council. Following the Rosary, Knights, acquaintances and businessmen went to the Kennedy family home. A steady stream of visitors entered through the large front porch, went thru the living room and into the master bedroom where Dan was lying in repose and paid their respects*. The large master bedroom had been cleared of all the furniture and was filled with flowers, it was unimaginable the number of flowers that were in that room, and throughout the house for that matter! For weeks afterwards, one could still smell the sweet fragrance of these flowers. As the guests left, they went out thru the living room, dining room, kitchen and exited from the back porch. This continued for upwards of two hours! The funeral home later informed the Kennedy family that the police department informed them that this was the first time traffic control had to be used for a funeral, as this was the largest funeral they had ever witnessed!
It was Father Kehren who suggested that “Muskegon Council 706” be renamed to “Dan M. Kennedy Council 706”. In June 1946, we did honor our Past Grand Knight Daniel Mathias Kennedy by doing just that.
One cannot let it go by without thinking that the Knights of Columbus have gone forward through the efforts of Daniel Kennedy whose devotion was so evident. Brother Kennedy was a devout Catholic and a dedicated member of the Knights of Columbus. He was a firm believer in the virtue of charity, the foremost principle of our Order.
- During that period, it was custom to have the viewing at the home of the deceased rather than in the funeral home as it is done today
Our thanks to Brother Larry Kolker for this tribute to our patron with assistance from his daughter, Phyllis Kennedy Hume, to whom we are most grateful
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