Town Historian and Belleville Historical Society President Michael Perrone has written a touching tribute to former councilman Kevin Kennedy, who passed away February 12. He was 63 years old.
His political career in Belleville lasted 20 years, with a remarkable history of charitable work for his community.
The Belleville Historical Society has suffered an unimaginable loss with the sudden and unexpected passing of Kevin Kennedy. Coming so soon after the passing of his close friend, our longtime Mayor Ray Kimble, makes the sting sharper.
Kevin was the backbone of our Belleville Historical Society. Kevin was a Belleville icon. He first fought for the preservation of Belleville’s historic structures as a teenager in the 1970’s. Kevin went on to become Belleville’s longest serving elected official, serving the people of Belleville non-stop, at all hours of the day and night, as Councilman and Deputy Mayor, in a career that spanned 20 years.
To better serve his community, in 1983 he established the Kevin G. Kennedy Civic Association. For nearly four decades he provided an almost unbelievable array of services to those in need. Thanksgiving turkeys and food baskets, Toys for Tots, food pantry support, scholarships for high school students, collecting and distributing used clothes for the needy, giving rides to seniors to their doctor appointments, helping people find places to live, rescuing/fostering/adopting abandoned dogs and cats.
When Puerto Rico was devastated by hurricane two years ago Kevin immediately helped organize the relief effort which sent tons of badly needy food and supplies to the island. Kevin did it all. Incredibly proud of his Irish roots, he was a founding member of the Belleville Irish American Association.
For almost 20 years Kevin and I served together as aides to our political mentor, the late great New Jersey Assemblyman John V. Kelly. There we learned true public service…in a state where so many politicians snicker at the concept while they’re busy lining their pockets.
Historically…Kevin was basically responsible for everything. I have always considered myself just a gofer. Among many things, Kevin was responsible for the restoration of the old Dutch Church cemetery and our annual July 4th ceremony there, raising money for the building of historic monuments, the restoration of our veterans graves, instituting the program to name thirty local streets in honor of Belleville’s young men killed in action, the establishment of our flag raising ceremonies and diverse ethnic/cultural commemorations at town hall, our affiliation with Wreaths Across America, and much more.
Kevin also spearheaded the effort to create Belleville’s 9/11 Memorial Park, and was responsible for inviting the guest speaker to a historical society meeting where we first learned of Belleville’s unique Chinese history.
Kevin was well known throughout New Jersey for his outrageous sense of humor, his fierce fighting spirit and his deep love for people. Kevin was W.C. Fields, General Patton and Mother Teresa rolled into one
That someone so incredibly full of life could suddenly fall silent has left our hearts broken. Let us keep Kevin and his family in our prayers.
A memorial service for Kevin will be held on Saturday February 29 from 1-4 at the Chandelier in Belleville.
Kevin Kennedy was a unique character with a gigantic heart, and loved by many. He will be dearly missed.