Note: Terry's wife Elizabeth asked me to write the notice for the paper, and the paper asked that my name be attached since it veers into first person. I feel weird about such a byline, and a little self-conscious about the first person, but then what doesn't feel weird and self-conscious when one of your best friends is gone? Here it is in a slightly more digestible format.
Obituaries are traditionally formed of the facts: the full name of the deceased, Dr. Joseph Terry Kennedy; who the deceased was preceded by in death, his parents, J.T. and Marie Kennedy, who were of Cartersville, Ga.; the pertinent dates and locales, born Dec. 8, 1945, in Cartersville, Ga., and died Thursday, May 13, 2010, in Baton Rouge; those by whom he is survived, wife, Elizabeth Pratt, and daughters, Eva and Caitlin "Cassie," sister, Irish Murphy, brother, Fred Kennedy, sister and brother-in-law, Fran and Sammy Butler, sister and brother-in-law, Rebecca and Al Johnson, and cousin, Charles Grier; the capacities in which that person served, a few: father, partner, teacher, artist, veteran, boat-builder, coffee shop ringleader and friend; and maybe some professional honors, Purple Heart Medal for service in Vietnam, longtime associate professor of mass communications at Southern University, Baton Rouge.
Those facts are important, but if Joseph Terry Kennedy has helped innumerable people realize anything over the years, it is that there is a greater truth than the facts, that the things we know and the things we do are but the first step toward something larger than ourselves.
And this was a guy with great facts! Mere hours after Terry's succumbing to the ravages of cancer, we gathered under the patio of his house just like a hundred other nights with him, recounting his remarkable participation in the anecdotal. "Remember the time he taught my son to smoke a cigar?" "Remember the time he took the dean for a ride on the back of his motorcycle and turned the mirror to see the terror on his face?" Terry had read every book, listened to every piece of music, knew every piece of art and had a way of rerouting a question or story into uncharted waters, where the real interesting questions and stories lie. He was the best friend an inquisitive soul could have.
Once he and I set out to find where Hitler's horse was buried out on River Road near the airport in New Orleans. His $500 Mercedes (another story - there is always another story with Terry) kept breaking down. We ended up in a hot auto parts store in Gonzales with souls in a similar desperate state and yet Terry pointed out powerful beauty in them all, the aging cashier's fallen beehive hairdo fighting against the busted A/C, the girl's name on a prison tattoo, how good a Coke tastes in such a situation. He loved everyone and everything and when you tuned into Terry's wavelength, you loved everything, too.
The part he bought didn't fix the situation and that delighted him as well. "We are circling in on a solution; I can feel it," he chirped as we lurched and chugged back home. We did find that horse the following weekend, but that success was on par with the previous fiasco, just another stepping stone on the path toward the immense, unfathomable truth that surrounds us, that is us, and it is in that truth that Terry lived and all of us whose lives he's touched live as well. - Alex V. Cook
The viewing will be held at the Owen Funeral Home, 12 Collins Drive, Cartersville, Ga., (770) 382-3030, Thursday, May 20. The funeral service will be Friday, May 21, at 2 p.m. There will be an informal gathering at his house, 728 East Blvd., on Sunday, May 16, at 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to The Nature Conservancy at www.nature.org.