In a cemetery on a quiet hill that overlooks the expanse of ocean in the scenic Irish Loop town of St. Vincent’s, young Canadian soldier Pte. Kevin Kennedy lies at rest next to his grandparents.
The cemetery is immaculate, kept up by the dwindling and aging population of the small community.
Down the hill next to the church, there’s a small memorial garden named after the young private. The old sign honouring him had become faded and worn, and the Fishermen’s Museum committee that looks after it lacked the funds to get a new sign.
That’s when teachers and students of Beaconsfield Junior High School in St. John’s, after reading the story in The Telegram, stepped forward.
Beaconsfield teacher Sean Gulliver said teachers and students immediately got to work raising money and arranging for a new sign.
“One of the teachers, Mark Tobin, has a friend, Robert O’Keefe, who owns a sign business, Construction Signs. The company donated the sign,” Gulliver said.
“Students donated loose change, we sold ice cream, and came up with $453. It was a collective effort.”
Gulliver, Tobin and fellow teacher Mike Torraville delivered the sign to the town last Wednesday.
The day was cold, windy and rainy, but people in the town gave them a warm reception, Gulliver said.
“It was a great day,” he said. “They immediately erected the sign.
“For us, it’s not always about the academics of school, it’s about making the kids better citizens, to realize that reaching out and helping others is very important. It’s something we took on and the kids rallied around it, and it was a great success.”
At 20 years of age in 2007, Kevin Kennedy gave his life in Afghanistan fighting to stop atrocities from occurring in that part of the world, to end terror and to maintain the freedom that countries like Canada enjoy.
“Mom, we need to go over to stop evil there before it comes to our own land,” Kennedy had told his mother, Kay Kennedy, when he informed her that he was being deployed to Afghanistan.
“That’s his words,” Kay Kennedy said Friday.
“He was a wonderful young man, very patriotic, loved his country. He was very kind, very giving, and always thought about the underdog. He always wanted to be there to help people, and especially those people in Afghanistan.”
Kevin Kennedy died in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan on April 8, 2007. He was one of six soldiers who died in that incident — including another Newfoundland and Labrador soldier, Sgt. Donald Lucas.
Kay Kennedy said what Beaconsfield Junior High did for the town and her son’s memory is “overwhelming.”
“It makes me realize that Kevin will never be forgotten, and how everybody was there to step up to the plate and help out in any way when it comes to anything related to Kevin, and our soldiers and veterans who fought,” she said.
“Losing a child is one of the most profound losses there is, and it makes this loss a little easier to bear when you know that he will never be forgotten. It is just so, so touching.”
The sign and funding from the school will be in addition to funds raised and to be donated by the province’s Uniformed Services — members include military, RCMP, RNC, fire departments, Canadian Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement, and other first responders.
“For us, it’s not always about the academics of school, it’s about making the kids better citizens, to realize that reaching out and helping others is very important." — Sean Gulliver
A date for the official presentation of that money is being planned.
Madonna Martin, the Fishermen’s Museum committee chairperson, said the funds will be used to build up the memorial park, including installing new sod and history boards.
She described last Wednesday as a “large day for a small town.”
“We are just still in awe,” she said. “People who had no previous connection to us in any way found their way to our little town and reached out to help us, strangers who we now consider as friends. It’s unreal how they took the time, energy and dedication to do this fundraising for us.”
Kay Kennedy retired to her native St. Vincent’s some years ago.
Kevin Kennedy and his older brother, Michael Kennedy, were raised in St. Lawrence on the Burin Peninsula.
They played soccer there.
Kevin Kennedy had requested to be buried at St. Vincent’s should things go wrong during his deployment.
Michael Kennedy was in St. Vincent’s last week for a visit. He said the memorial garden, and the kindness offered by the school and uniformed services, is no surprise to him.
“To me, that’s what Canada stands for, to see how Kevin’s sacrifice has brought strangers and so many people together, not only in the community here and the province, but across Canada,” he said.
“The Afghanistan campaign ended back in 2014, and to know that we just have so many people out there who remember, and to see such a nice dedication and memorial put together in this community where Kevin’s final resting place is, is just, to me, what we stand for as a country. I’m very proud to know there are people so engaged and carrying on the memory of our fallen soldiers.”
Robyn Bishop, 15, a student at Dunne Memorial Academy in St. Mary’s, gave a presentation about Kevin Kennedy on Wednesday.
A teacher recommended that she research Kennedy’s life for a project to enter into a regional heritage fair, and thus her determination to do it as a tribute to Kevin Kennedy grew.
Her project won an award.
“(Kevin Kennedy’s death) affected everybody from the town, and everyone had something to say about it, so we thought it would be important to learn about him,” Bishop said.
“He was such a young man. It’s kind of a way of preserving the message he stood for, about being kind to everybody and being so selfless as to give up his own life over in Afghanistan so there could be a better life for others.”