Widow, 91, of Rev. Kennedy
Anne Kennedy, widowof Rev. D. James Kennedy, the South Florida televangelist whofounded one of the first megachurches in the country and became one of the best-knownministers in the nation, has died, their daughter said Friday. She was 91.
Mrs. Kennedy stood alongside the reverend as he became the founding pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, as well as a school, seminary and series of conservative-themed conferences.
“She was remarkable in her own right,” said her daughter, Jennifer Cassidy. “She supported my dad 100 percent in what he did and she was as committed, faithful, driven, goal-oriented as my dad. She was a brilliant and wisewoman.”
Mrs. Kennedy, who would later muse to her daughter that she hadn’t planned on marrying a minister, was the sole supporter as a secretary when her husband went to seminary. Andwhenthey started their church, she was his music director, and sang in the choir until the age of 88.
Mrs. Kennedy was born in North Carolina and met her husband at a Tampa dance studio. He was the manager aiming to sell dance lessons. She was there for a party. But when he met her, he told his coworkers that he had just met hiswife, and he did sell her dance lessons, too. They married in1956.
According to her daughter, it wasn’t until a few years later that her husband woke up on a Sunday morning to the clock radio in the middle of a sermon from a preacher with a profound question: If you were to stand before God who would ask why He should let you into heaven, what do you think youwould say?
“That was not anything my father had ever thought about,” Cassidy said. He continued to listen, followed up with some reading and “at the end of the week he asked Jesus Christ to come into his heart.” His lifewas changed, his daughter said.
“He was the visionary,” Cassidy said. Mrs. Kennedy would “support that vision and do everything and anything that was needed to carry it forth.”
When he thought up the idea for his program called Evangelism Explosion in 1959 or1960— nowan international program — to train lay people how to proselytize, he told his wife they would change theworld.
“My mom could have said, ‘ Jim, please, wehave45 members of the church.’ She didn’t say that. She said, ‘Wow, this is great.’ ” Then she began to train people. They founded Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 1959.
By 1967, Coral Ridge was cited byChristian leaders as one of the fastest-growing congregations in the country. It moved to its current location in1972, and had become one of the first megachurches in the country.
When Rev. Kennedy died in 2007, his service was attended by thousands. In a statement about his death, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush said they were saddened by the loss of “a man of great vision, faith, and integrity.” They said his “message of love and hope inspired millions of Americans.”
Cassidy, of Delray Beach, said her mother will be remembered as “a servant of Jesus Christ, dad’s faithful partner, and a beautiful woman.”
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. May 26 at the church, 5555 N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.