Words of Remembrance in Commemoration of the Life of Eleanor “Honey” Kennedy

Eleanor “Honey” Kennedy

Honey Kennedy, a well known and highly respected member of this community died recently. She was the wife of the late State Representative John Kennedy and quite a lady in her own right.

We are pleased to print the eulogy delivered at her funeral on March 12 by her Daughter Maureen at the Immaculate Conception Church in Everett.

We would like to thank you for joining the Higgins-Kennedy family today as we pay tribute to the life of our beloved Honey. Our mother was born in Everett in 1927 to Sabina and John Higgins, the tenth child of Irish immigrants from Galway, Ireland. Honey came from a family of limited financial resources; however, the strong ties of love made them rich in many other ways. Family, faith, food and fun were the foundations of the Higgins clan. The very best of Irish wit and hard work characterized her family.

Honey was much younger than all of her siblings, but was from an early age a caretaker of the rest of the family. She was pretty, witty, smart, energetic, generous and a tough cookie from the start. We, bet, in a good way, she was also strong-willed, stubborn and opinionated even back then. Many joyful anecdotes were shared with us throughout the years of the many adventures of the Higgins family that could fill volumes. Unfortunately, she also had to embrace tragedy at a young age. She was ten years old when her father passed away and twelve when her beloved sister Sabina succumbed to TB. After her father died, Nana Higgins was working two or three jobs, leaving a young Honey at home to take on many of the responsibilities of the Higgins household. Despite these challenges, she excelled as a student. She attended Immaculate Conception School and received a double promotion. Later at Everett High School, based on her outstanding academic achievements, she graduated early at age 16. She had a strong desire to attend college, but her family could not afford to pay the $75.00 yearly tuition.

By the time Honey graduated, most of her siblings were married. She went to work immediately, and then she and Nana rented an apartment on Waverly Avenue. Her neighbors down the street were the Kennedy family, another large Irish family consisting of nine children. One of the Kennedy daughters had been a classmate and friend of Honey’s. Several years later, after World War II had ended, her friend’s brother Buddy, returned home, and she introduced him to Honey. Honey was then twenty years old and Buddy had just turned thirty.

Their first date was opening day of the Red Sox 1948 season. They both loved sports, dancing, movies, and, of course, the art of conversation. By May they became engaged, and on June 26, 1948, they married here at the Immaculate Conception Church. THUS BEGAN THE HONEY-BUDDY KENNEDY LEGACY.

After returning from their honeymoon, our parents started a home that included Nana Higgins and the rest of the Higgins clan on most Sundays after Mass and every holiday. Father Bill’s home was our house when he was visiting from his parishes in Alabama or when he was ill. Our house was also the gathering place for our dad’s brothers and sisters and eventually their children as well.

My father initially had to learn the many aspects of the culture of the Higgins’. He was always amazed at their sense of humor, their ability to go with the flow, and a “Why worry if you cannot do much about it?” posturing, and the most outstanding experience for him was their family feasts. He would often tell us when tragedy strikes the Higgins’s’, the caterer is the first person to be called.

Honey and Buddy started a family in 1949 and eventually had eight children (two girls and six boys): Maureen, Tom, Bob, Pam, Terry, Mark and Ted. Buddy entered politics early in his marriage. His headquarters was our dining room table and our Mom was his manager. He was elected State Representative from Everett and went on to achieve an outstanding political career with our Mom’s assistance and support. Between our diaper changes, school projects, and sport events, they worked their political machine. Our house was always full of activity. Our Mom juggled us kids, politics and hundreds of parties for family and friends over the years. Honey was always devoted to educating her kids, making sure each individual child’s needs were addressed to the best of her ability. Our parents’ passion was to secure a great future for each of their children. Honey was always there for us, for her own mother, for her siblings, and for many relatives and friends. Our Mom also got to know all of our friends. If a family member or friend could find one word to define her, it would be “generous”. She was always there to lend a hand or do a favor and, or course, Honey’s favorite pastime, slipping someone a few bucks.

Believe it or not, Honey squeezed in time for her own special interests. She had her club meetings once a month, bowling, bingo, swimming, playing cards, watching sports, dancing, drinking Ward 8s, and her own unique art form of conversing about everything with everybody. In later years she traveled with our Dad to political conventions, a couple of weekend getaways, and an occasional cruise. Honey would boast that she could see the world from Glendale Square once she boarded that St. Theresa travel club bus, and she did, from Foxwoods to Alaska and many European countries. She also loved her day trips. I know that she is a bit disappointed that she did not attend the annual St. Pat’s celebration event today. How she loved the month of March so she could wear her many green outfits that were more like costumes. She never missed celebrating March 17th.

Honey was a complex woman. Her faith was her strength, which was paramount to her existence and would carry her through many tragedies. Her beloved, Father Bill, died at age 42. Our Mom and Dad had to go to Alabama to bring him home to Nana. Our mother had lost a sister and two other brothers by then, but found it difficult to understand why God would take Nana’s son, the priest, away from her. He died in St. Jude’s Hospital in Alabama and thus began Honey’s lifetime devotion to St. Jude. Her faith became stronger! Unfortunately, she would be forced to test it over and over again. Our brother Mark was taken away from us in 1979 at 20 years old, a devastation to us all, but unbearable for a mother. We all pulled together the best we could.

Time continued to pass, Honey joyfully witnessed her kid’s graduate from college and become a transit executive, a health care professional, attorneys, and an author. She was proud of her kids’ accomplishments. We began to marry and then Honey and Buddy’s greatest joy followed with eight grandchildren: Christopher, Mark, Ryan, Alycia, Julie, Peter, Sabrina and Kaitlyn, who became part of her family.

Unfortunately, Honey could not share the birth of all her grandchildren with Buddy. He left us in 1992, yet another loss for Honey and us. Again, time unfolded, her children had their successes and challenges. Honey was there for all of us with her unique support and so happy she could do this. Honey’s family was far from perfect, but she stood up for her children with an unwavering commitment to protect them. She sure was the one you wanted in your corner, God help the other guy when her Irish was up!

Life dealt Honey her last tragedy in 2005 when our brother Bob was overcome with cancer. Her faith kicked in yet one more time. This time the big F – Fear- also kicked in. Honey would pray: “Please God, don’t take another child.” She could not face much more, but she did and rallied with a strength unfamiliar to most.

In recent years, Honey got to see her grandchildren develop. She attended their sports events, plays, concerts, dance recitals and graduations, all of which added much joy to her existence. She appreciated that life had allowed this happiness.

Recently, as her health deteriorated, pain and all, she would minimally participate in all she could. She was a lover of life with all its ups and downs; however, the activities were slowly taken away from her. She was a vibrant person who wanted to be part of the game or the conversation and have the opportunity to give her in-put on how things should be done. Her life in Everett is over, however, she has commenced a new life in Heaven. Her presence here on Earth will be missed and a monumental void has been created in all our lives and an irreplaceable seat left empty on the St. Theresa’s travel bus.

Today as we speak, I am sure that Honey is already advising St. Peter on how he can save a buck on the operation of the pearly gates, suggested a new seating arrangement to some of her fellow heaven dwellers, placing her at the head of the table, and preparing her list of unique suggestions for improvements.

I hope Nana, Father Bill, Buddy, Mark and Bob have prepared the Lord for what He is in for with our Honey.

Bravo Honey! Well Done, Mom!

We Will Always Love and Miss You.

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