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Joe Kennedy
In Memory of

Joe Kennedy

December 6, 2023

Death Notice of Joe Kennedy

Clarence (Joe) Kennedy was born June 8, 1937 to Clarence (Pete) and Madeline Kennedy in Burford Township, approximately 5 kms from the town of Norwich.  Joe was the eldest child in a family of 13 children.

Joe grew up in farm country where the main crop was tobacco and dairy.  The Kennedy ancestors were credited with bringing the first Holstein herd into this district in the 1830’s and he loved his Kennedy heritage.  Many miles and many cemeteries were searched creating a very large ancestry history book.

Joe's’ formal education ended in Grade 8, but he excelled learning from the university of life.  Over his life time, he was able to work his way to be head sawyer, a master welder, his AZ license, heavy equipment operator, carpenter, entrepreneur and inventor.  Whatever he could dream (or anyone else), he could build, and usually it was already started by the time he told you about it. All his family have keepsakes in their house or products of his work, which was usually made of wood.  A favourite that took many years to come to fruition was the penny project, and the most recent was a silver dollar encased in live edge.  A large undertaking was a cedar chest for all the girls.  He made clocks and sign in tables for guests during covid and donated them to local restaurants. We only need to look around our houses, in our backyards to see his unique handiwork, his imagination and his love.  His signature was always found somewhere on his pieces, which might be in a wall or under a floor.

Joe met his life long, best friend, Jack Johnstone while working at the Woodstock furniture factory.  One evening they were out cruising and they raced a Chevy car.  Another night, they spotted this same car parked outside the picture show and Joe parked beside it.  Two pretty girls got out of the back seat and Joe asked the name of one of the girls, and she replied Jenny Lou Payne.  Later, the hunt began to find Jenny Lou.  They found a mailbox with H.Payne on it, phoned, but Jenny Lou didn't live there.  As luck would have it, Jenny Lou was walking home from the neighbours house .Her real name turned out to be Greta Walters and a romance began that would last more than 70 years. 

First dates included a spin in the manure truck (mostly with Jack along), going to shows, swimming and spending alot of time at the Kennedy farm.

Joe and Greta married on September 25, 1954, spent their one night honeymoon at Joe’s aunt and uncle’s place and played monopoly all night.  Five children would spring from this marriage.

His many hobbies included stock car racing, snowmobiling, golf, darts, board and card games, especially euchre.  Stock car racing was a favourite and  #53 was born and his home track was Bridgeport.  Joe also raced at Nilestown, CNE and Pine Crest and this hobby ended up hatching Varney Speedway in the late 1960’s along with help from family members and investors.  Varney Speedway employed most of the Kennedy family for many years and one beautiful day this October, Joe experienced the thrill of the track again when he rode shotgun in his best friend's son's race car for some very special laps. Varney Speedway opened for business in 1970 on a property that also housed another Kennedy business, Durham Three Way Demolition.  Opening in 1966 to 1994, job sites that spanned from New Liskeard to Sarnia, sending reclaimed material to the yard in Varney to be sold.  Their motto was “Big or small, we wreck them all” 

Durham Three Way and Varney Speedway built amazing floats in local parades.  A train built in 1985 was recently resurrected and refurbished which placed first in the 2023 Mildmay Homecoming parade.  This project was one of Joe’s final builds and he was filled with his “Kennedybilt” pride when his eldest great grandson drove it down the street.

Joe retired from Welbeck Sawmill in 2021 after another 18 years holding various positions, including the world  famous water-powered shingle mill demonstrations.  

Although tragedy struck Joe’s family in January of 1964, losing his 3 sons in a house fire, he continued on to overcome the devastation, rebuilding his life to include community and family get togethers. Christmas parties with Santa Claus, the Easter bunny egg hunt, weddings and 16th birthdays were mostly recorded on VHS tapes. 

Joe learned that by giving and becoming better, not bitter, peace and happiness were brought to his heart.

“Joe” Clarence Roy Kennedy, of Durham, passed away at the South Bruce Grey Health Centre, Durham on Wednesday, December 6th, 2023 in his 87th year. Beloved husband of Greta (nee Walters). Loving father of Sharon Kennedy, Dawn Kennedy and her partner Mark. Cherished grandfather of Rylee (Tim), Cayley (Adam), Courtney (Brad), and MacKenzie; and great-grandfather of Sophia, Gwen, Abby, Sydney, Brook, Colson, Bailey, and Camden. Dear brother of Tom (Margaret) Kennedy, Judith Doer (Bob), Ken (Brenda) Kennedy, John Kennedy, Phyllis (Wayne) Barnes, Barb Hicks, Roger Kennedy, Michael (Sue) Reeves, Kim Storrey, and Kristine (Richard) Pratt; and brother-in-law of Don Falkingham, Harold Hazell (Carol), Grant (Cindy) Payne. Loving uncle to his many nieces and nephews. 

Predeceased by his three sons Richard, Doug, Mark along with their special family dog, Colonel, his parents Clarence “Pete” and D. Madeline Kennedy; his sisters Marlene Kennedy and Carol Falkingham; his brothers-in-law Bob Hicks and Howard Payne, Jr. and sister-in-law Brenda. 

Cremation has taken place. A celebration of Joe’s life will be held at the Durham Legion on Saturday, May 4th from 1 - 5 p.m., with memories being shared at 1:30 p.m.

As an expression of sympathy, memorial donations to the Durham Hospital Foundation or The Salvation Army in Listowel would be appreciated by the family. Arrangements entrusted to the McCulloch-Watson Funeral Home, Durham.


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