John J. Kennedy

John J. Kennedy (City of Pasadena/Submitted)

Leaders throughout Pasadena are reflecting on the achievements of District 3 Councilmember John J. Kennedy, who died July 21.

“Today, Pasadena lost an amazing advocate,” said Councilmember Tyron Hampton.

“The passing of John J. Kennedy comes as a shock, and it is a tremendous loss. … John was a fighter. Every day he worked for the betterment of the people of his district, and for the people of Pasadena. Our city is definitely a better place because of John. Everything he did for the community was done with the greatest care and to the highest caliber.”

Born and raised in Pasadena, Kennedy dedicated his life’s work to serving his home community at a young age. He served as student body president at Blair High School and student senator at the University of Southern California, where he earned dual degrees in international relations and economics. He earned a juris doctor degree from Howard University School of Law and was the youngest person to have served as president of the Pasadena branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“His work as a member and president of the NAACP was historic,” Mayor Victor Gordo said. “The inspiration that people should find in his life is his dedication and love for the city of Pasadena, and his personal willingness to sacrifice his own time, and in many ways his own life, to ensure that our city was better, not just for residents living in Pasadena today, but for residents that had once lived in Pasadena … and always with an eye to the future, to future residents of Pasadena to ensure that they too would have an opportunity to live here and be successful members of our beloved city.”

During his tenure on the city council, Kennedy was chair of the public safety committee, served on the finance committee and was one of three city representatives to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. In 2013, he became the councilmember for District 3.

“John was a very talented and versatile individual, and that’s why he was so effective as a member of the city council representing the residents of this city and beyond,” Mayor Gordo recalled. “At times people ask me, ‘What should I look for when I’m looking to elect a member of the council?’ And my answer is always this: ‘Sure they should have a basic understanding of our city and have a procedural understanding of how things get done,’ but those things and others are not the qualities that I look for. Those are basics. What I look for and what distinguishes candidates in my mind is ‘does an individual love this city and the people of this city?’ And when I think of John Kennedy, the answer is resounding ‘yes.’”

Alongside his work with the city council, Kennedy also served on a variety of local boards, including the Community Health Alliance of Pasadena, the Pasadena Police Foundation, the Tom Bradley Legacy Foundation at UCLA and the ChapCare board of directors. He was an ardent supporter of affordable housing, health care access for underserved communities, paying workers a livable wage and hiring locally.

“John was passionate for the people, places and causes that he held near to his heart,” ChapCare CEO Margaret B. Martinez said. “Northwest Pasadena and health care access for underserved, at risk populations were just a few of the many topics that we discussed at length. He supported ChapCare’s medical and other clinical services as a fundamental resource for all residents of Pasadena. He saw this as a way that impacted people and neighborhoods could achieve their best quality of life and build stronger communities.”

There will be a public service held for Kennedy from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, in Centennial Square at the front of city hall.

At the request of Kennedy’s family, in lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to a scholarship fund held in the name of the Kennedy family at the Pasadena Community Foundation.

“John was a compassionate, caring and loving soul,” Hampton said. “My prayers go out to the Kennedy family, to the residents of District 3 and to the city of Pasadena. John Kennedy’s work here on earth is done, but his work and legacy will continue on through all of us.

“In memory of John, let us always remember that we are one Pasadena. Let’s continue to work together to build a greater community.”

The Pasadena Community Foundation