Friday, November 14, 2014

Tribute to Francis Xavier 'Paco' Kennedy - by his brother Dr. Fred Kennedy

Francis Xavier Kennedy
September 10, 1940 – October 26, 2014

I want to recognize my sisters, Mary Cameron and Liz Sealey who are here today and on whose behalf I speak.  Although we followed careers in education, different from the business route that Paco took, and even though we moved abroad in the 1970s, we all stayed very close together as a family.  I want to thank his wife, Marjory and her family for this opportunity to give a tribute to Paco.

Paco had a special place in the Kennedy family. 

He was born Francis Xavier, September 10, 1940, eldest of five children, of Lydia Loinaz and Luis Fred Kennedy.  From an early age, he was called Paco, which is the Spanish nickname for Francis, given to him so as not to mistake him for his namesake, our uncle, Francis Xavier, my father’s youngest brother. 

My father, Luis Fred Kennedy was the eldest of six siblings who married and all had children.  So, Paco was not only the eldest of his immediate family but of the whole Kennedy clan of 25 first cousins. Paco held a special place in the hearts of not only his immediate family but of his extended families of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.  I honor many of these who have travelled from far to pay their last respects. He always made a point of staying in touch, and I know that Marjory had a lot to do with this. 

As an older brother, he was leader of the pack, and maybe because of expectations placed on him, needed to assert his authority now and again.  He would always want to be our parent in one way or another.  On many occasions, he would refer to me as Charles, his son.  How he mistook us I have no idea, the hair alone, you think, would differentiate us.

He had a caring instinct, he’d always take care of business. I can remember getting into difficult straits, stuff I would not want to tell my parents and Paco was the one I turned to. 

Even though we were ten years apart, he included me in many of his activities, and this for a younger brother was a great thrill.  He loved movies, in his later years, taped thousands of them to house a huge library at his home.  When younger, he would ask me to accompany him to matinees at the Carib, Palace and Rialto theatres; every time there was a boxing match in town, we would go together to the Race Course  to see the fight; I learned about table saws and carpentry while sharing his wood work projects; he was an avid tennis player and would invite me often play at Liguanea Club; we would stay up, competing against each other late into the nights, playing table tennis on the back verandah at home; he taught me how to use his BB gun; he let me plan his Bachelor party and asked me to be his Best Man at his wedding.  These are wonderful memories.

Paco was very guarded, closed in many ways.  He had tremendous pressures put on him growing up as the eldest child, expectations to secure his place in the family and in the business.

But I remember so many times when he let down his guard.  I shall never forget the time he hugged me when our Dad died, and we both cried on each other’s shoulders.  I shall never forget the surprise he gave me when he showed unexpectedly for my daughter’s wedding, January of all months in Canada.  I know how much he hated the cold.  And most recently, I shall always treasure the moments he held my hand and squeezed it for the longest time while he lay in his bed at UWI hospital in Intensive Care, unable to speak, but so very much alive in his eyes and facial expressions.

My childhood memories are of him returning in the summer months from boarding school in Washington DC.  Jesuit educated, he left Campion Hall in December 1951, enrolled at St. George’s College until the middle of third form when he moved to the United States to attend an all boys Jesuit Boarding School, Georgetown Prep in 1954.  He graduated 1958 top of his class, famous in the school as the one who tutored all the other boys in Mathematics.  After that, he attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, but for a short while; he was soon back in Jamaica, to begin his business career at GKCO in 1959.

60 years ago, they did not test children’s learning abilities in schools as they do today, but I am certain that if labels had existed then, he would have been known as a gifted child.  I remember the day his IQ scores came in, they were off the chart, genius level. He had all the characteristics of giftedness:  top of his class, problem solver, highly energetic, impatient, driven, keenly interested in many subjects.  Characteristic of gifted children, he possessed a strong sense of fairness, discerning right from wrong.  The times I remember seeing Paco the most upset were when he sensed someone was trying to cheat him.  He had no tolerance for misinformation, for corruption, for stupidity or for anyone who might be trying to manipulate him or take advantage of him.

This brilliance along with a deep sense of integrity are what made him a keen businessman.  My mother always said he was like Midas, he had the touch of gold.  Whichever company he was asked to run at GKCO, he was able to turn it around to make it profitable.

My father called him a man of the people.  The large numbers of persons here today, the outpouring of love and messages are testimonies of how much Paco was loved.  He was a man who harbored no prejudices, discriminated against no one, made no judgments based on sex, class, race, or religion.  This is why people loved him.  He was a true egalitarian, he worked not to amass great amounts of wealth but rather to do good, to serve his country.  He was fired by this zeal. 

He was the best brother to me, my sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.  He loved our families as his own.  Just as he loved our children, Amanda, Sarah and Julia, likewise I hold dear to my heart his own children, Cathrine and Charles, loving them as my own.  He showed respect and love for my wife, Georgianne, accepted her from the beginning and welcomed her into the Kennedy family.  He loved our eldest daughter, Amanda, whom he called his second daughter, and was godfather to our second daughter, Sarah, both of whom are here today. 

He had a knack for making you feel special.  He would invariably start a conversation with a joke, share that contagious laugh of his, and pat you on the back.  He was a master at lowering your defences.  He loved his family as I am sure he loved every one of you sitting here today. 

“Big boy, you take care of yourself.”  These were the last words I remember him saying when I called him from Canada for his birthday.  He always had a way of “bigging’ up others.

In the communion of saints, I am sure he is with them, somewhere in spirit with my Mom and Dad, with my eldest sister, Celia who have pre-deceased us and with the many friends and family who have gone before us. 

We are sad at his passing but happy for all the good memories of true brotherly love. 

May you forever rest in peace, Paco.  We love you and we miss you.

Fred W. Kennedy
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kingston, Jamaica.

November 08, 2014

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful tribute. I wish I had known him!