“He had so much self-confidence. He was so comfortable in his own skin,” Jean said.
He enjoyed fishing and parading his friends through local golf courses, and he told his family and friends that his career ambition was to work with his hands.
“He was the fix-it guy. He just knew everything,” said his close friend and neighbor Brandon Haggerty.
Kennelly loved cars. After Mass every Sunday, the family dined at Bialy’s Café, the former Hamburger Hotline, on the corner of 95th Street and California Avenue in Evergreen Park. Kevin always ordered a Coke, chili and the “No. 2” breakfast. He’d usually break out a car magazine and fascinate his mother by identifying and describing passing vehicles on the street.
“I would say, ‘How do you know all this? You don’t even read the cereal box,” his mother said.
Kevin’s real passion was baseball. His parents put him through camp after camp and were thrilled when he made the Mt. Carmel varsity.
“We could have sent him to college with the money we spent on pitching lessons,” Jean said.
He was a member of the Mt. Carmel baseball team that recently finished fourth in the Class 4A state tournament. He also played soccer for the Caravan.
Kennelly’s death is the third tragedy to hit the Mt. Carmel baseball program in the last two years. Steven Bajenski died from complications of heart surgery in August of 2009, and assistant Coach Tony Morsovillo passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease last December.
“Kevin would do anything for any of his teammates or friends,” said Mt. Carmel baseball Coach Brian Hurry. “He certainly wasn’t a kid who would look for a fight. This is just absurd. We are all devastated.”
Mount Carmel Assistant Coach Mike Himes called Kevin the nicest kid on the team, one who would do anything the coaching staff asked of him. Hurry echoed those sentiments.
“Kevin was the ultimate team player. He had a great personality,” said Hurry. “Kevin was a great kid from a great family who was one of the most popular players on the team. It was all about the team for Kevin. It was obvious that he had a ball being out there, and he truly loved baseball. Baseball is supposed to be fun, and it was for Kevin. It was refreshing to be around a kid like that.”
Kennelly was a crafty pitcher who was anticipating a big role on the team in his senior year, and he had recently developed a nifty slider.
“His friends said he didn’t throw that hard, but he threw a lot of junk that most people found hard to hit,” said his uncle, Joe Kennelly.
There’s a long line of devoted Mount Carmel men in the Kennelly Family. Kevin’s father and grandfather graduated from Mount Carmel. Kevin Sr. coaches the Mount Carmel rugby team, but he said his son was never pushed to join the Caravan.
“All of his friends from St. Barnabas went there. That class must have had a dozen of them, and they were all his pals,” Kevin Sr. said.
While at St. Barnabas, his son pleaded to not have to attend a high school fair. His mind, according to his mother, was already set on a certain school.
“He came down from his shower wearing his Mount Carmel hat, his brown Mt. Carmel sweatshirt and Mount Carmel sweatpants and said ‘OK, Dad, let’s go talk to [St. Ignatius College Prep].’”
Kevin was also passionate about his friends, McCullagh said.
“That’s what he lived for. Jean sometimes wanted to spend more time with him; but he wanted to spend time with his friends, and that’s the way it should be even though he was an only child. Jean always says you can never give a child too much love, and she couldn’t give him enough. And he gave it back.”
Kevin’s close friend Kristen Meyer, who attended preschool, kindergarten and elementary school with him, reflected on how he could let bygones be and would gladly turn a new page.
“He wouldn’t hold a grudge about anyone,” Meyer said. “Not too long ago, we got into a little argument. It was only a few hours later when he was saying, ‘Hey, you want to meet up and get something to eat?’”
Like any teen, Kevin had his quirks. According to his friends Brandon Haggerty and Jack O’Connell, he could be picky about who used his air hockey table or get perturbed if someone stole a drink off his pop—but that was part of his lovable character.
Kevin’s friends are now left with memories of him and a terrible Fourth of July.
Support the Kevin Kennelly Scholarship Fund https://www.kfkennellyjrscholarship.org