A life of responsibility: Service longtime motto for Marty Kennedy

Marty Kennedy, 61, a former Marine, Lawrence city commissioner and mayor, took over the family business, Kennedy Glass, with his brothers when he was 25 years old.

Hard work and community service come naturally to Marty Kennedy, 61, a former Marine, Lawrence city commissioner and mayor. He co-owns Kennedy Glass, 730 N.J., a business that’s served Lawrence for nearly 60 years.

Kennedy’s family moved from Joplin, Mo., in 1950 when his father became part-owner of the Auto Glass Company at East Ninth and Delaware streets.

The young Kennedy took to Lawrence like a duck to water.

“We lived next to the river, and I loved playing and fishing there,” he says. “I was a real river rat.”

Idyllic, carefree summer days were somewhat interrupted when he started school.

“Dad paid me 75 cents (hourly) to work with auto glass,” he recalls. “It was challenging, but I got to work on some pretty nice cars.”

He graduated from Lawrence High School in 1967 and enlisted in the Marine Corps.

“I wanted to serve my country,” Kennedy says.

He trained at Fort Pendleton, Calif., taught there as a forward observer and map reading instructor, and completed a tour of duty in Vietnam with an artillery division.

He still gets flashbacks.

“Sometimes a sudden sound or unusual smell can trigger a traumatic memory,” he says.

Like many others, he’s learned to accept and live with it.

Kennedy joined his father’s business when he returned to civilian life in 1971. When his father died two years later the business (in the new purpose-built premises) was renamed Kennedy Glass in his honor, and family responsibilities were reassigned. Brother Gary deals with showers, John with the auto side, Kennedy works with commercial and residential projects, and acts as general manager.

“When I took over, I was only 25 and thought I looked too young,” Kennedy says. “I grew a beard and moustache and hoped contractors would think I was much older.”

He needn’t have worried. The family’s reputation as a high-quality, reliable local business was already established. The brothers continued to work well together when the business was divided into equal shares after their mother’s death in 2003.

“We’ve been able to keep the professional and family sides of our lives separate,” he says. “Each of us knows what we’re supposed to do, and we do it.”

He attributes the business’ longevity to great customer service, commitment to and good relationships with high-quality local contractors, first-class employees and community support.

Determined to give back to the community, Kennedy served on the Lawrence City Commission from 1997 to 2003. He was mayor in 1999. During his time in office, the city built the indoor aquatic pool, new Lawrence Arts Center, downtown parking garage and opened Eagle Bend Golf Course.

“The economy was strong back then, and we were able to do many exciting things,” Kennedy says.

Despite the weaker economy, he remains passionate about community and works hard to support and sustain east Lawrence neighborhoods. He’s enthusiastic about his involvement in “Depot Redux,” the volunteer effort to restore East Lawrence’s historic Santa Fe train depot.

“Lawrence is a wonderful place,” Kennedy says. “It’s important we continue working together to sustain strong community neighborhoods.”