November 26, 2014

Ione Kennedy—1915-2014

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE KENNEDY FAMILY

Ione Kennedy—1915-2014

Ione Kennedy at her kitchen table. She was an iconic figure in Topanga. She last attended the TCC Senior Dinner in December 2013 at the age of 98.

Topanga has lost an indomitable matriarch of the Canyon; Ione Margaret McFarland Kennedy passed away at her home on Cheney Drive on Saturday, March 22 at 2:22 p.m.

The house was full of friends at the time of her passing and her loving caregivers, Erica Schlichs and Ellie Carroll, were by her side. Ione had just asked Erica to “stay with me” and so she did, sitting by the bed and holding her hand as Ellie read the 23rd Psalm.

She was an amazing 98-years-old. Her feisty spirit, love of nature, and independent streak mark her as a true woman of Topanga and she will be greatly missed.

Born October 19, 1915 in Wisconsin, Ione was just six when the family moved to Stillwater, Minnesota, which she always remembered fondly as her Midwestern home. Eventually, when Ione was 12, the family moved west to California. Ione remembered the long drive in the back of the Model-T Ford cuddled up with her little Pekingese dog, Midgie. The family settled in East Los Angeles, in the area now known as Inglewood.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE KENNEDY FAMILY

Ione Kennedy—1915-2014

Ione holding a pet chicken at the family home in Inglewood, California.

As an only child, Ione was ever so slightly spoiled by her parents and was given a car for her high school graduation, a yellow Ford roadster with a rumble seat. She was so proud of that car and her ability to drive it that she insisted on driving all of her dates.

That was Ione, strong-willed, practical and responsible!

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE KENNEDY FAMILY

Ione Kennedy—1915-2014

Gordon and Ione Kennedy on the occasion of their wedding on July 8, 1939.

Young Ione loved to dance and went regularly to dances all over Los Angeles. It was at one of these dances she met a tall young man from Ekalaka, Montana, Gordon Kennedy, and he would shortly become her steady fella and then her husband. They married on July 8, 1939.

Gordon was a budding engineer and inventor and went to work for Douglas Aircraft but was soon drafted into the U.S. Army. The timing was very difficult as Ione became pregnant at the same time. Their daughter, Kathleen Margaret Kennedy, nicknamed Kay, was born Dec. 4, 1944. One day in 1956, they came to Topanga for a picnic on Cheney Drive when young Kay spotted a rusty “For Sale” sign. They bought the property and got right to work building a cement-block house. Ione spoke proudly of Kay's contributions during that time and often spoke of the three meals a day they would cook on a camp stove for Gordon and the crew.

By the end of 1957, the house was done and the Kennedys moved in. Over the years, Ione was a great friend, mentor and mother figure to many children.

As a foster family she and Gordon cared for several children for extended periods of time in their cozy home, including Milton Bagley and later Virginia House, raised right alongside welcoming big sister Kay.

When Virginia first came to them, she was withdrawn and barely spoke. It was Ione who patiently worked with Virginia to bring her out of her shell and help her communicate. In addition to fostering needy children, Ione was a playground assistant for many years, wrangling little ones at Topanga Elementary.

She always supported Gordon and was interested and involved in his many endeavors. His book, "The Fundamentals of Gemstone Carving," is dedicated to Ione, as he never could have written it without her support and advice. Together, they went rock hounding, exploring the country in their green camper van, collecting rocks everywhere they went. Together, they founded and became charter members of the Woodland Hills Rock Chippers and The Topanga Historical Society, for which Gordon served as the very first president.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE KENNEDY FAMLLY

Ione Kennedy—1915-2014

Ione and Gordon Kennedy on the occasion of their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1989. They moved to Topanga in 1957 after building a house on Cheney Drive.

After Gordon retired and Kay and Virginia had left home, Ione needed some excitement so she took a temporary holiday job at Robinson's department store in Woodland Hills.

In typical Ione style, she was promoted and was practically running the place in a short time, staying on for eight happy and productive years.

After Gordon's passing, Ione came to rely on her wide circle of friends and neighbors in the Canyon, most especially her very special friend Jim Machowski and neighbors Michael Klock and Antonia Bath. She enjoyed employing and supporting many "assistants" for the last few years of her life including myself, Patricia Mansperger, Sean Pinto, Hat John, Chris Adams, Jack Dunphy, Sally Anne Bateman, Holly Alsop, Newie Kirkpatrick, Erica Schlichs, Ellie Carroll, Dana, Dina, and Lisa, all of whom joined together to care for this quirky, sharp and wise woman. She always had a kind word and a joke for her helpers, giving out surprisingly strong neck rubs, warm hugs and good advice along with helpful paychecks. With the help of these caring neighbors Ione was able to maintain a healthy social calendar even after she hung up her car keys. She would make regular trips to Trader Joe's for her favorite dark chocolate, as well as trips to the Canoga Park Senior Center and the TCC Senior dinners, attending her last one in December 2013 for the holiday party.

I went to work for Mrs. Kennedy in the spring of 2008 and what started as a part-time job evolved into an important and loving friendship in my life. Her wisecracks and endless curiosity about life made her a delight to spend time with. When I was hired she said, “I'm looking forward to our relationship" and that's exactly what it became, a real relationship that nourished us both.

In her last few months, Ione continued to do the things she enjoyed most, interacting with the birds outside her kitchen door, listening to the radio, and opening her mail.

Her caregivers noticed a marked change in her energy just a few days before her death, and though she remained lucid and spicy as ever, she seemed to be letting go. A real team player, one of her last interactions was to share a high five with two of her caregivers.

Ione is survived by her daughter Kay; son-in law John Gerber; grandchildren Heather and Eric; great grandson Cole; and numerous nieces and nephews. She stayed especially close to great nieces Edith Bridgewater and Lavona Goodson. Sadly, her daughter Virginia preceded her in passing.

Ione was buried in Chatsworth next to her dear Gordon, husband of almost 68 years.

A memorial gathering will be held at the Mountain Mermaid on Sunday, May 18, at 1 p.m.

Some of Ione’s favorite quotes: “Adversity is not an adequate deterrent;” “You take care of YOU;” “Good business makes for good friends;” “Life is short; eat dessert first!” “I was born to AMAZE;” and “Here’s mud in your eye!” n­