Obituary of Marie Theresa Kennedy

August 19, 2023

Marie Theresa Kennedy, daughter of the late Dr. and Mrs. Eugene T. Kennedy, was physically never more than five foot two. Her presence had nothing to do with height. She was not a captain of industry. Yet, she was captivating, and beautiful, and contained a strength of character that we can all be envious of.

Marie Kennedy, known fondly as Rhe, was born January 10, 1937. She grew up in Pompton Lakes NJ, and has lived in Manhattan since 1968, in a teeny tiny apartment.

Rhe could not hold a grudge. She could not swear. If you were in her orbit, she saw the light in you, and she made you grasp why you were special.
She had incredible gifts, quiet gifts, beautiful gifts.

Admittedly, the ability to cook was left out of her lexicon, her desires, and her apartment. She was a Manhattanite. There was a time that she kept extra sweaters and books in the oven.
She was fiercely independent and although she had her ups and downs, she survived and thrived by the strength of her convictions. She has been fighting cancer, on her own terms, with an incredible show of strength for 2 ½ years.

In the last few days, Rhe has had visits and contacts from a beautiful variety of loved ones. Siblings, nieces, nephews, both great and grand. Her incredible friends; friends that she made in grade school, friends that she picked up along the way. Her visitors brought their children, and their children’s children reached out in the most touching ways.

Somehow, from that humble apartment, she has touched thousands of lives. Whether it was a relative, a friend or a complete stranger.

Rhe was a steadfast lover of the arts. The Opera, Lincoln Center, and all that Broadway had to offer. Her first show was a summer theater in Pompton Lakes, and she was hooked. She mingled with the swells. She carried herself with authority, and enjoyed the greatest orchestras, dancers and actors that the world could produce. She was known in these circles. She was Rhe Kennedy.

Yet, she lived on a budget. She worked harder for the charities she supported than she did for her own personal comfort.

She had her favorite haunts, like The White Oak Tavern and Tre Giovani where she was cherished like a dignitary. The places she frequented loved Rhe, the quiet celebrity that she will always be. She was not a takeout gal. Rhe was a get to know you type of gal.

Rhe had faith in the future, and faith in humanity. Her faith in God was resolute, unshakeable, and also a lesson to us all. The Catholic Church has been an incredible and a comforting blessing as she has traveled on her life’s journey.

She has walked safely through Washington Square Park for decades, day or night, from the height of its highs, and the lowest of its lows. Her people, her city. Protected by the love out there that may have been hidden to some, was something that Rhe took for granted. Her inspiration should be our inspiration, her way should be our way.

Rhe may have gone unnoticed from time to time, in the vastness of NYC. She was not flashy. Understated. Strong. She loved her friends and relatives without fault. She loved everybody she knew, and she loved and prayed for you.


I hope you had a chance to meet her.

Rhe is survived by the love she has shared, as well as her big sister, Sister Marigene Kennedy OSF, her little brother Terry (Beth) Kennedy; sister-in-law Polly Kennedy; nieces and nephews Mary Cate, Liz, Megan, Eileen, Maureen, Katie, Jeanne, James, Patrick, Mike, Mark and Luke; 25 grand nieces and nephews;17 great nieces and nephews; and dear friends Mary Jean Wood, Dolores Clark, Joan Berk and Margaret Kennedy.

Rhe was predeceased by brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Meg Kennedy, and brother, Jay Patrick Kennedy.

Funeral Services


August 23, 2023

9:00 am to 10:00 am

St. Joseph’s Church

371 6th Ave

New York, New York 10014

Get Directions

Funeral Mass

August 23, 2023

10:00 AM

St. Joseph’s Church

371 6th Ave

New York, New York 10014

Get Directions

Share a Memory

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Among my many fond memories of Aunt Rhe is her with her Polaroid camera. Always made me smile.

Posted by: Roger Clarke - Apex, NC - Friend August 21, 2023

I am in Ohio helping my sister move to an apartment, so I won’t be able to be there in person. I met Rhe with Elaine Chan at a meeting of Women’s Spirituality run by Sr Thomasmari, MSBT, of happy memory and then volunteering for Pax Christi Metro New York. Thank you for sharing this beautiful obituary.

Posted by: Margaret Flanagan - New York , Ohio - Friend August 22, 2023

Rhe was one of my favorite people. We met at St. Joseph's Church when I led an Advent Day of Reflection in the Parish House. Rhe was the one person from that gathering who became a friend and a volunteer at the Pax Christi office in the Parish House. We also became partners at the ballet, over lunch, at Pax Christi events, and in prayer. I last saw Rhe for lunch at Starbucks in the Union Square Barnes & Noble store. We talked about going to another ballet, but, sadly, never got around to it. Rhe has been in my prayers since her cancer diagnosis. I now pray that she will be in her well-deserved glory with the God she has always loved and put first. Blessings, Rhe, and pray for us.

Posted by: Rosemarie Pace - Middle Village, NY - Friend August 22, 2023

Share a Memory? Where would I begin? So many cherished moments come to mind...way too many to list in this abbreviated space. You were a class act. Cover-girl beautiful from the inside out. Metropolitan woman living the city life for as long as I have known you. Visiting the city will not be the same without meeting you there for a meal and visiting good 'ol 11P. Godspeed, Rhe...until we meet again. Love you always.

Posted by: Katie Kennedy - Kernersville, North Carolina - Family August 24, 2023

Marie was a sweet lady Always saw her walking around the neighborhood and in the building. Will miss seeing her smile. Saddened by her passing. Condolences to all.

Posted by: Janet Mayer - New York, NY - Neighbor August 26, 2023
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