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Rural Express: Robert Kennedy says No Regrets at 100

Published:Saturday | November 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Robert Kennedy with a book titled 'Robert Kennedy - It's not the man, it's the place'. Written by his children, the book tells the tales of his life. -Photo by Tamara Bailey

Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer

Knockpatrick, Manchester:In the cool, quiet district of Knockpatrick, there lives a man by the name of Robert Nathaniel Kennedy; a tower of strength in more ways than one, wisdom personified, possessing humility like no other and a packaged sense of humour to lift any broken spirit.

Born on the 11th day of August 1914, Centenarian Kennedy grew up in the rural district of Asia in the parish and proved himself a brilliant child, gaining the respect and admiration of teachers at the Frankfield Elementary School and community members alike.

With his industrious nature, Kennedy left school early and started working to help his mother, as his father had passed.

"I knew I had to work, I did my farming, I planted yam, cocoa, sweet potato, cassava, and I made sure we were never short on food. When I had to get some off my hands, I sold them in the market," said Kennedy.

As Kennedy grew to become a fine gentleman, he soon found the need to leave home and cling to a wife.

"I told my mother that I couldn't allow her, at her age, to take care of me anymore. I needed to find someone else. She asked me if I had found someone and when I told her she said 'Wonderful!'"

Kennedy wed his schoolmate, Mary, in 1940, four years after he gave his life to God, and they together conceived 10 children.

With added responsibility, it was necessary for Kennedy to seek work that would give him better financial stability, and so he left his trade as a carpenter and travelled to America in 1945 on the farm work programme.

good experience

"The experience was good. I worked on the farm reaping apples and corn. I remember one Friday, the overseer came with a truck and told us to load it up. We didn't know where we were going, but we hopped in. We were brought to another farm to reap corn. I was there working when I realised the sun was setting, so I stopped because the Sabbath was approaching ... I thought the overseer would be mad at me, but he actually said, 'I don't blame him, I would have stopped too'," Kennedy told Rural Xpress.

After a year in America, Kennedy came back home to his family.

"Fourteen years later, in 1960, I went to England. I wanted my children to get a good education and I needed money."

But according to Kennedy, it was not a great experience.

"Hygiene was low, it was cold, and I was just simply not used to their way of life. I remember going to buy a loaf of bread and the lady told me (that) business was good today and they ran out of paper, if I mind putting the bread under my arm ... it was upsetting."

Even with such a culture shock, Kennedy adjusted as best he could and stayed there three years.

Kennedy spent another year and eight months in Jamaica, before leaving yet again. This time for Canada.

"It saddened my heart when my wife said, 'Honey, you're leaving me again', but I knew it was just for a time."

After two years in Canada, Kennedy was joined by his wife and they lived there for close to 30 years.

"We had some wonderful years there before coming back home, officially, especially at the church we worshipped at in Toronto. But we were happy to come back to our children and our family.

Kennedy, who now lives with his daughter, Lyn Kennedy, says he has lived his life with no regrets.

"My greatest joy in life is knowing that all my children have remained in church and are all successful. I have an engineer, nurses, even a pastor."

The self-acclaimed bookworm, who spends his days in his personal library or in the fields with farmers who may come by, says living a fulfilling life is simple:

"Love the Lord - there will be challenges, but God will see you through. Christianity must be in the forefront of your mind when you take a partner, learn to obey rules and read: reading maketh a man."

rural@gleanerjm.com