Widow, 91, of Rev. Kennedy

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - OBITUARIES - By Lisa J. Huri­ash Staff writer

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.

lhuri­ash@sun­sen­tinel.com

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