William Edward Kennedy
Bill Kennedy, award-winning Plain Dealer photographer, is dead at age 54
By Grant Segall
Cleveland Plain Dealer
MEDINA, Ohio - Bill Kennedy often hated to leave assignments.
The prize-winning Plain Dealer veteran once photographed a man in a nursing home, then lingered for more than an hour listening to his stories.
Days later, Kennedy was still saying how cool the guy was.
Kennedy remained his cheerful, joking self through several years' struggle with sarcoma. He died Monday at his Medina home at age 54.
Kennedy seemed to like everybody and everything. He played guitar in the "rockin' country" band, Bottleneck, at local clubs. He displayed paintings in local galleries. He wielded an old-time camera with colleagues in a group known as the Sagging Bellows. He cut his own picture frames.
He seemed to know thousands of people and call them all "Buddy" regardless of gender. He made up many other nicknames, too. After complaining about their rather common names, he and a colleague livened things up by calling each other Guinevere and Lancelot.
At home or work, Kennedy often strummed the guitar and improvised lyrics. He'd croon to his two boys, "I can't give you a ride to school today, 'cuz the sun is shinin' down," or "I can give you a ride to school today, 'cuz the rain is fallin' down."
Bill Gugliotta, the PD's director of photography, said Tuesday, "Bill was a journalist whose pictures told stories with an artist's eye for grace and beauty.... Bill had an innate talent for turning the ordinary into something remarkable."Kennedy grew up in Holyoke, Mass. He graduated from Holyoke Community College and the Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in photojournalism.
He joined the Fremont News-Messenger in 1980, the Lewiston (Maine) Sun Journal in 1986 and The Plain Dealer in 1990. From 1991 to 2004, he worked at the PD bureau in Medina. He later joined the main office in Cleveland and became features picture editor.
Kennedy won many first places and other awards in state and regional photo contests in Ohio and Maine.
In younger years, he lifted weights, competed in triathlons and played other sports. But he was slowed over the years by back problems and two surgeries. Next only to his wife, Megan, and the boys came Jazzy, his golden retriever. He photographed Jazzy for The Plain Dealer and his computer screen-saver. He took her everywhere he could, even to cancer treatment in Houston.
During the illness, Kennedy claimed that his hair grew back better after chemotherapy than ever before. He tried to avoid pity. He once pointed his cane at Megan and told a colleague, "Hey, buddy, others have it worse. I've got her."
Survivors: Wife, Megan (McClelland) Kennedy, and his two sons, Patrick Kennedy of Medina and David Kennedy of Cincinnati
Memorial: Noon Saturday at Waite and Son Funeral Home, 765 N. Court St., Medina, Ohio
Contributions: MD Anderson Cancer Center, Sarcoma Medical Oncology, P.O. Box 4486, Houston, Texas 77210