Obituary of William P. Kennedy

June 18, 2022

Bill Kennedy, 71, died in New York City on June 18, 2022, leaving his three sisters to grieve for him, along with a wide network of friends and family. Bill was the son of a career military officer. The family moved often, and Bill thrived, adapting smoothly to each new school and locale. Two of his middle-school years were spent in Paris, where Bill learned French and perhaps acquired some of his attributes. For example, Bill was debonair; he lived life with élan; he loved haute cuisine and the arts. Bill would return to France many times – for junior year abroad in Strasbourg; later to escort his sister and her spouse around Paris; and just because. At Dartmouth College Bill minored in French, and one of his cherished memories was to have been an assistant to the renowned professor John Rassias.

From a very young age, Bill loved cars. He always knew all the brands, all the models, all the years. Bill also loved words, ideas, logic. He had an astonishing memory for detail, able to retrieve for example, decades later, the family phone number in Norfolk, Virginia. He took pride in doing the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. After college Bill went to Georgetown University Law Center, where his intellect, logical mind, and prodigious capacity for detail made him a natural attorney. Despite the heavy course load, he still made time for the arts, participating in Gilbert and Sullivan productions with fellow law students. After law school he embarked on a career as a corporate attorney in the auto industry – another natural fit. He enjoyed working for DeLorean Motor Company in its start-up years, and later for Rolls-Royce. All his life, Bill was the go-to person for advice on buying a car. And he was very choosy about his own car purchases. More than once he flew to another state in search of the perfect car.

Bill was generous and thoughtful in ways large and small. He frequently welcomed friends and family to his New York apartment. He attended absolutely every family function possible, including the weddings of faraway cousins and of the children of his friends. He got his sister and young niece tickets to a filming of Sesame Street and treated others to Broadway shows and concerts. He borrowed a Rolls-Royce to chauffeur his sister and her husband on their wedding day. One dear cousin had a copy of Life magazine from the 1950s, cherished because it featured a story about her lakefront home with photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt, but crumbling from age and use; Bill presented her with a pristine original copy of that issue of Life, moving her to tears.

In retirement, Bill enjoyed further pursuing the arts, including joining the Amateur Comedy Club in New York, acting regularly in its productions and serving on its board. Acting gave him joy. So did his second home in Vermont. Bill enjoyed the bucolic country life as well as the city lights. He remained an active member of the Dartmouth Lawyers Association.

When Bill was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, he managed to call upon deeper reserves of strength and humor, persevering stoically through many visits to “Club Sloan” and sending his sisters occasional “Medical Reprise-a-thon” emails with updates on his journey. His doctors admired his matter-of-fact grit and dry wit. So did his family and friends. We are profoundly grateful to the oncology team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, without whose expertise Bill’s life would have been cut short much sooner. Now his journey has ended, and he can rest at last. We will all miss him deeply.

A memorial gathering is being planned.

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