Tuesday, September 4, 2001


Firefighters lose
dedicated advocate

Kennedy won respect for his
fairness and easygoing demeanor

More obituaries

By Pat Gee

Francis J. Kennedy Jr., chief negotiator and business manager of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, died suddenly Friday from an aneurysm on his aorta. He was 59.

He died at his Aina Haina home in the arms of his son, Daniel, who described it as "the most honorable thing that could have happened to him," according to Hazel Kennedy, Francis' wife.

She said her husband had been battling lung cancer for four years, but the aneurysm, discovered a year ago, worried the family more because it could burst suddenly.

Francis Kennedy's "dream was to have the best union in the state of Hawaii," she said. "He wanted to make sure that the members had the best they could have in salaries and raises. ... That was his legacy," she added.

Honolulu Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi worked "across the desk" from Kennedy during negotiations for 15 of the 30 years he represented the union.

Firefighters "suffered a great loss. He's going to be missed. He was a great friend," Leonardi said.

"He was always fair and equitable to both sides, always found a solution to difficult problems when trying to resolve something," Leonardi said. "He had a unique talent."

Kennedy's easygoing demeanor was a "stabilizing factor in negotiations. He never got excited or raised his voice. He always handled himself as a gentleman. It was an extremely strong factor" in settling contracts, Leonardi said.

Kennedy not only looked out for firefighters, but for "what was right for the community," he added.

Several years ago, Kennedy pushed for a drug-testing program for new hires, and his union was the first in the state to make such a program mandatory, Leonardi said.

Kennedy's motto was to "be fair and equitable across the board. He didn't like having different treatment for different people," Leonardi noted.

Hazel Kennedy said her husband never missed a day of work during his chemotherapy.

"He did such an awesome job," she said.

Besides his wife and son Daniel, Kennedy is survived by sons John and Thomas, daughter Marguerite "Sis" Keolanui, mother Marguerite and 15 grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 9 to 11 a.m. and service at 11 a.m. Saturday at Star of the Sea Church. Burial will follow at Diamond Head Memorial Park. Casual attire is requested.

Diamond Head Mortuary is handling the arrangements.

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