Obituary of Willliam "Bill" R. Kennedy

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Willliam "Bill" R. Kennedy

March 5, 1927 - October 9, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of The Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Former owner/operator of Kennedy's Restaurant at Hampton Beach William "Bill" R. Kennedy, 79, died unexpectedly on Monday, Oct. 9, 2006, at Exeter Hospital.

He was born March 5, 1927 in Exeter, son of the late William T. and Helen E. (Donahue) Kennedy.

A true entrepreneur, Mr. Kennedy started a small operation of selling fast food on the grounds of Phillips Exeter Academy at age 16 called Bill's Spa, which eventually led to his legacy as a restaurateur, a labor organizer, a bomb shelter victim, a U.S. Navy cook and an artist.

He left high school with his parents' consent and enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II serving as a cook. After the war, on the G.I. Bill, he attended the School of Practical Arts in Boston, as he wanted to become an artist or get into advertising. His schooling was cut short as Bill joined the Air National Guard Fourth Fighter Wing, Air Manchester during the Korean conflict and was called to active duty. He was stationed for 16 months in Korea.

He is survived by four sons, William, of North Hampton, Robert, of Rye, Rick, of Rye, and Dean, of Hampton; five grandchildren, Ashleigh and Kelsey, of North Hampton, Sancheri of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Ricky and Ryan of Florida; one sister, Helene, of Billerica, Mass., and several nieces and nephews.

Mr. Kennedy was pre-deceased by one son, Michael and two sisters, Doris and Hazel.

WE REMEMBER: Mr. Kennedy is probably known best for being the longtime owner and operator of Kennedy's Restaurant, which was a nice combination restaurant/ice cream eatery on Hampton Beach. He was a hard worker and began working as early as age 9, working summers, cleaning dishes at places such as the Hampton Beach Casino, Daigle's and Ben Butler's. He just simply loved being at the beach.

Some notable accomplishments include participating with the Seacoast Committee making proposals; serving on the Maine and New Hampshire Bridge Authority in charge of the Memorial Bridge and Route 1 Bypass bridge; being a tester of the first above-ground fallout shelter in the country and almost dying as a result of it; serving as a labor organizer, and as the business agent for the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1947 of Portsmouth.

Mr. Kennedy's life is a colorful reflection of a man's unique experiences -- a person who had the courage to take positive steps in his profession, for his co-workers and his community.

SERVICES: There are no calling hours. A memorial service will be held on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Brewitt Funeral Home, 14 Pine St., Exeter. The Rev. Wayne VanGundy will officiate.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Hampton Firefighters Toy Bank, 64 Ashworth Ave., Hampton, NH 03842.

Recalling A Beach Icon

William "Bill" R. Kennedy

By Susan Morse and Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, October 17, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of The Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Family and friends are mourning the loss of longtime Kennedy's Restaurant owner William "Bill" Kennedy, a man who built his life, business, politics, and even a bomb shelter at the beach.

Kennedy died unexpectedly Monday, Oct. 9 at age 79.

"He was one of a kind, that's for sure," said his son, William Kennedy Jr., a lieutenant in the Hampton Fire Department. "He was quite a father."

Kennedy Sr. owned the restaurant located at the corner of High Street and Ocean Boulevard in North Beach for more than 30 years. For a time, he ran both Kennedy's and another restaurant called Kennedy's Car Hop at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Winnacunnet Road, Kennedy Jr. said.

He was the kind of man who just couldn't retire, Kennedy Jr. said. Even after he sold Kennedy's last year -- it is now 931 Ocean -- he worked at Nelson's candy store located next door to his former restaurant.

Kennedy was also politically motivated. He was a labor organizer for the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1947 in Portsmouth, serving at different times as the union's business agent and president, according to his son. When Kennedy and organizers struck at the state pier in Portsmouth, the union truck drivers wouldn't cross the picket line, said Kennedy Jr.

"The guy running the pier just about threw him off the pier," Kennedy Jr. said.

"The biggest thing I remember was the restaurant and his was labor union movement. The friends he had, he knew a lot of longshoremen from Boston to New York. My father was looking for opportunities, looking out for the working-class kind of guy."

Kennedy served in World War II as a Navy cook, leaving high school with his parents' permission to enlist. He later joined the Air National Guard Fourth Fighter Wing, Air Manchester and was called to active duty, serving 16 months in Korea during the Korean conflict.

Kennedy was also known for constructing and testing the first bomb shelter in Hampton and almost died because of it. In 1961, for $2,800, Kennedy built the underground shelter behind the restaurant.

"Most of my friends thought I was crazy when I started building this thing," said Kennedy at the time, according to an article published in Hampton Union.

Kennedy and a friend entered the shelter with an intention to stay, but lasted only 18 hours due to a lack of oxygen. They were transported to Exeter Hospital.

He tried again and had a successful 48-hour test in November 1961 when he and his son Rick spent 14 days in the shelter.

Kennedy is survived by four sons, William, Robert, Rick and Dean. All live on the Seacoast. He was predeceased by a son, Michael.

"He was a workaholic but also a loveaholic," said son, Robert. "I worked side by side with him and he was more than just a father; he was my best friend."

Robert recalled that his father once told him the story of how he was held hostage at his restaurant by a man, who had robbed a bank and shot two Boston police officers.

"(The gunman) ordered everyone out of the restaurant and held up my father by gunpoint for many hours," Robert said. The man was there because his daughter worked at the restaurant, according to Robert. He wanted to give her money.

The family grew up on North Shore Road.

Kennedy Jr. remembers his dad always being supportive.

"He always wanted me to chase what I wanted to do," he said. "How proud he was of my accomplishments."

Others remembered Kennedy, the restaurateur.

"We used to go to Kennedy's every single day," said Martha Williams, of Hampton. "When it closed in 2005, the regulars just about died trying to find someplace else to go."

Kennedy's was located in a small shopping center, which includes Cinnamon Rainbow Surf Shop and Betty LaBranche Agency, that is owned by Fred Schaake.

"He was an institution at Hampton Beach," Schaake said. "I have never seen anyone run a cleaner restaurant. If someone dropped a glass, he would stop everything he was doing and was out there with a mop to clean it up."

Dave Cropper, owner of Cinnamon Rainbow Surf Shop, said he considered Kennedy a mentor.

"As a young business owner, I often went to Bill for advice," Cropper said. "He was always there to help and did a lot for the beach."

Betty LaBranche knew Kennedy for more than 25 years. His business brought customers to her real estate agency.

"He was a great neighbor all of those years," she said. "He was the first one out there shoveling the walks. He was just a very hard worker, always there at 4:30 a.m. or 5 a.m."

Kennedy, who grew up in Exeter, worked at the beach starting at age 9. In the summer, he cleaned dishes at the Hampton Beach Ballroom, Daigle's and Ben Butler's. At 16, he opened a small, fast food restaurant called Bill's Spa on the grounds of Phillips Exeter Academy.

Kennedy was the first person to bring a car-hop to Hampton Beach, Schaake said.

"It was a big parking lot where waitresses would roll up in roller skates to serve the customers," Schaake said.

Kennedy could often be seen at Schaake's business, now called the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom.

"I remember that he was an avid dancer," Schaake said. "He just loved to dance."

Kennedy opened a hotel next to his restaurant in the early 1970s.

"The reason why he constructed a hotel at his restaurant was because at the time it was a dry beach," Robert Kennedy said. "The only places that could serve liquor were the hotels that had more than seven units. The funny thing was, seven months after he constructed the units, the entire beach went entirely wet."

Bill McNeil worked on and off for Kennedy, starting in high school when Kennedy owed the hotel and restaurant.

"It was the type of place that if you had on your resume that you worked for Bill Kennedy, anyone at the beach would hire you," McNeil said. "They knew if your worked for him that you were well trained, disciplined and very clean."

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