Professor Charles “Chuck” Lorens Kennedy
It is times like these that not only remind us of the mortality of our loved ones but also of our own. While quixotic tech billionaires may strive for the preservation of their earthly form, the rest of us must eventually confront the reality that it will not be our bodies that escape the inescapability of death, but in the best case scenario it might be our ideas, our legacies, and how we have impacted others in a positive way.
Charles Lorens Kennedy, better known as ‘Chuck’, ‘the Chucker’, or “The Chardonnay Socialist”, was born to Charles M. and Eva Kennedy on December 3, 1941 in the small railroad stop town of Cresson, Pennsylvania just outside of Altoona. There, he developed his love of animals, sports and academia that lasted for the rest of his life.
From there, he went to Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in 1963. Afterward, he immediately signed up for President John F. Kennedy’s recently instated Peace Corps program in order to teach, see the world, and spread liberal western values. The program sent him to Sierra Leone in West Africa where he would spend the next two years teaching history and serving as the director of sport. In the role he coached soccer and track and field and then introduced the country to softball and basketball, the latter of which he organized the first ever national basketball tournament.
Where they adored President Kennedy and his program of nation-building and outreach, but then individually came to love another (unrelated) Kennedy as well once writing of his time in country, “I recall walking down the streets in the village of Port Loko…and all the little kids would come running out yelling, “Kennedy, KENNEDY!” They embraced the Peace Corps simply because President Kennedy sent us to help. [The} villagers opened their hearts and homes to me, just because my name was Kennedy, because of their respect for President Kennedy.
In 1965, overcome with grief when it was time to say goodbye to a country he came to love and one that came to embrace him he wrote, “I remember the complete and total sadness when I said goodbye; the warmth and friendliness of your people; the ease with which you opened your hearts to us… I remember the intensity of your sadness and personal loss when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. You considered him a true brother.”
After his time in the Peace Corps, Chuck enrolled in New Mexico University in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he would receive master’s degrees in history and political science in 1969. Afterward, while teaching as an assistant professor at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania he met his soulmate, MaryAnn Kennedy, whom he would marry on August 19th, 1972, a marriage that would endure for more than 46 years.
From there, his travels took him and his young family to West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia where he pursued his PhD before leaving to become the special assistant to the secretary of state of West Virginia where he handled all press relations during the re-election campaign for secretary of state James McCartney in 1976.
In 1977, he would pack up along with his wife, MaryAnn, and two young daughters, Colleen and Sharon, to move to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania in order to serve as Director of the State of Pennsylvania’s Government Action Center, where he served as chief ombudsmen under Governor Milton Shapp. While addresses might have changed since, Mechanicsburg would remain home forever having added a third child, a son named Patrick, in 1978.
Settling into life in south central Pennsylvania, he began teach Political Science at Penn State University York Campus, which he did until retiring in 2014 after being named teacher of the year by his students numerous times. He loved to break the rules of teaching that needed to be broken in order to inspire kids.
During his career, he was able to beat cancer twice and continue teaching before the third time was just too much. He was lucky enough to have healthcare insurance that could cover some of the costs of his treatment and savings that could cover the excellent care he received at Johns Hopkins University even though it “was out of network,” but he would rather you think of those less fortunate. He was lucky enough to have spent his last days surrounded by family, providing them with the strength of his sense of humor even in the darkest moments until his last breath. However, he would rather you think of those without than congratulate him on a life well lived. Instead, he would want us to help others also live a great life, as he did for his students throughout his entire career.
Charles Lorens Kennedy may have passed away early Wednesday morning on October 24, 2018, but he will live forever. By living for and positively affecting others, he achieved the impossible: immortality, for he will live on forever in all of us.
May we all be better people for the life he lived and may we all improve the lives of others that cross our paths for the remainder of our days. May you greet these strangers with a warm, “seke seke seke,” in the language of his Sierra Leonean villagers until they become friends.
Chuck is survived by his two golden retrievers, Flynn and Charlie, his wife, Mary Ann, his daughters Colleen and Sharon, his son Patrick, and his brother Phil, who will all be better off having learned from his wit and wisdom accrued over seventy-six great years of life.
We love you, Dad.
All are welcome to join Chuck’s family at his gathering of family and friends on Saturday, October 26, 2018, from 2:30 p.m. until time of remembrance at 4:00 p.m. at Myers - Buhrig Funeral Home and Crematory, 37 East Main Street, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055. Contributions in celebration of Chuck’s life can be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 897, Hershey, PA 17033.
Chuck’s family has entrusted his care to Myers – Buhrig Funeral Home and Crematory in Mechanicsburg, (717) 766-3421. Read Chuck’s full obituary, view his memorial video and portrait, and sign his official guest book at Buhrig.com.
American Cancer Society - Hershey
P.O. Box 897, Hershey PA 17033