Suburban Aquatic League Chairman from the ‘70’s
On Thursday, November 3rd, 2005, a founding father of the Suburban Aquatic League, Michael “Mike” Kennedy died at Presbyterian Hospital. Mike was a giant in the League. Many of the rules and customary manners that govern SAL were Mike’s ideas. He was a brilliant and clear thinker, able to communicate his concepts to others.
Mike’s no-nonsense attitude spiced with a great sense of humor and ready wit made for meaningful League meetings that were also great entertainment. Mike’s quick mind could concoct a solution to seemingly impossible dilemmas, and many thought that he had the USS handbook committed to memory. He probably did.
Mike enjoyed kids, swimming, and people. He was always on the side of fair competition for all in the sport and the League. As chairman, his guidance always reflected that. Six year-olds were as important as high school All-Americans. No event was trivial. SAL has a championship for EVERY athlete regardless of ability. Diving survived. SAL has a custom of always being inclusive, and Mike set that tone.
The early years of the SAL were sometimes tumultuous, and many well-meaning but lesser persons would have given up and let others take the heat, but Mike Kennedy stuck to jobs till they were satisfactorily completed.
I’m the only active member of SAL from the very beginning (1968) and I was a very young, inexperienced coach when I met Mike. He is a major reason why I became a better coach and person and why I grew to love being around the League “just because.” And there are many men and women from that time who would say the same about Mike. His witty wisdom affected thousands of aquatic-minded persons through the people who had direct contact with him and passed on something from Mike.
Mike and his wife, Kay, opened their house to SAL meetings. Many times the officers of the League sat around the Kennedy dining room table to hammer out the directions the League would take. We drank Kennedy beer, coffee, and soda and munched on their chips and pretzels. The meetings were social events but Mike made sure that we got the job done.
Problems at a meet on a Saturday? Mike was never too busy to explain the nuances of a situation. He knew the USS rules and just how to apply them. He knew the League rules, too, and fearlessly and fairly applied them as necessary. Mike was supremely confident without being egotistical. He was a great teacher, but would probably deny it. Chairman Kennedy taught by example. I remember many meetings where Mike sat smiling as we argued and debated issues. He knew what to do, but he wanted us to find the solution ourselves. It is so sad that his exemplary time with us is over. Fortunately, there are swimmers and divers today, decades after he chaired the League, who benefit and pass on Mike’s ways.
Those of us who knew him personally are a lucky lot indeed, but Mike will be sorely missed, even by people who did not know him.
Mark McElwee, SAL Boys Registrar
Kay Kennedy holding a framed program
cover at the dedication of the SAL "Mike
Kennedy Memorial Championships"