If there were a dictionary solely dedicated to the Township of Belleville, there’d be an entry for Councilman Kevin G. Kennedy.
It would simply say he was Belleville.
Kennedy, who was the longest-serving councilman in the history of Belleville, died Feb. 12, 2020, after a brief illness.
He was just 63.
Though he was known for his volunteer work throughout Belleville, he did have a paid career — he was a toll collector on the Garden State Parkway. But it was his selfless giving to make life better for residents that most define Kennedy, because for decades, that’s who he was — a true Man for Others.
Kennedy dedicated his life seeing to the well-being of all Belleville citizens and he worked tirelessly to that end. He served as Third Ward Councilman and Councilman-at-Large for 20 years. He was also appointed as Deputy Mayor at times during those two decades.
Kennedy served as a member of the Belleville Planning Board, the Belleville Historical Commission, the Belleville Historic Society and was a member of the the Second River Joint Meeting.
Kennedy worked very closely with the current president of the Belleville Historic Society, Michael Perrone.
Perrone was stunned by Kennedy’s unexpected death and says it will be impossible to ever replace him.
“Kevin was the backbone of our Belleville Historical Society. Kevin was a Belleville icon,” Perrone said. “He first fought for the preservation of Belleville’s historic structures as a teenager in the 1970s. 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.”
During that timeframe, Kennedy started his own civic association, and it’s one that will continue on its mission, despite the loss of its founder.
“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,” Perrone said. “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 a 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.”
Kevin was also integral in organizing many street-naming dedications to honor Belleville soldiers killed in action. He was also instrumental in building the township’s Sept. 11, 2001, memorial.
In all, Perrone says he will miss his friend who so clearly left this world too soon.
“Kevin was well known throughout New Jersey for his outrageous sense of humor, his fierce fighting spirit and his deep love for people,” Perrone said. “Kevin was W.C. Fields, Gen. Patton and Mother Teresa rolled into one.”
Kennedy was predeceased by his parents, Edward and Marguerite Kennedy; his brother Edward J. Kennedy, Sr., and the love of his life Mary Lou Hood. He is survived by his beloved granddaughter Alyssa Vega; sisters Marguerite Kennedy-Foti (Edward), Judith Greco (Vincent); nieces Donna Kennedy (Himanshu), Nicole Treadway (Adam), Amanda O’Brien (Lawrence); nephews Edward Kennedy Jr., (Kara), John Greco, Edward Greco; great-nephews Aiden Antala, Ajay Antala, Conor O’Brien; and great-nieces Ella Kennedy and Grace O’Brien.
A memorial celebration of Kennedy’s life will take place Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Chandelier, 340 Franklin Ave., Belleville.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.