Friday, October 14, 2005 (SF Chronicle)
Jim Kennedy -- television producer
Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer


Jim Kennedy, who made his career as a television producer and
documentarian in Southern California before relocating to the Bay Area to
serve as a hospice volunteer, died Oct. 5 at his home in Palo Alto.
Mr. Kennedy, 65, began hospice care for himself just two days before he
died from liver cancer that resulted from hepatitis C, said his wife
Suzanne Abel.
His television and documentary work focused on social issues that affected
society's marginalized and downtrodden citizens, and he worked to get at
the truth of those stories, he once told his friend and hospice colleague
Jim Brigham.
"Journalism was telling the story, but this was like living the story with
them," said Brigham, of the work they did together at the Pathways Home
and Hospice of Sunnyvale, Mr. Kennedy as a patient care volunteer and
bereavement counselor and Brigham as spiritual care coordinator.
Before moving to Palo Alto in 1995, Mr. Kennedy worked for Los Angeles
television stations KCET and KCBS, where he served from 1984 to 1992 in
executive positions specializing in documentary work. He started his
television career at KCBS in 1979, after producing 40 documentary films
over the previous 11 years.
He moved to the Bay Area to pursue hospice work after his illness forced
him to retire.
Mr. Kennedy graduated with a master's degree in fine arts from UCLA in
1969, but he went back to school after his move to Palo Alto and earned a
master's degree in social work from San Jose State University in 2003. His
thesis at San Jose State detailed the experiences of hospice home health
aides, who are some of the lowest paid yet most integral hospice workers,
Brigham said.
Mr. Kennedy was a Peace Corps volunteer in 1962-1964 and taught K-12
school in Liberia.
"The hospice work was a bookend with the Peace Corps experience," Abel
said. "Those were the two powerful episodes of meaning in his life."
Mr. Kennedy is survived by his wife; a daughter, Laura Kennedy of San
Diego; two sons, Peter Kennedy of Los Angeles and Alex Kennedy of Caracas,
Venezuela; a stepdaughter, Marina Vidor of London; his mother, Nancy
Kennedy of Santa Barbara; and two sisters Marianna Kennedy of Albuquerque
and Katy Kennedy of Portland, Maine.
For details on the memorial service, e-mail the family at
The family asks that donations be made to the Friends of Liberia, 4300
16th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20011, or to Pathways Home Health &
Hospice, 585 N. Mary Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94085. ------------------------------------------------

James W. Kennedy, 65; Television Producer and Writer at KCBS and KCET Started 'Life & Times'

By Myrna Oliver, Times Staff Writer


James Walden "Jim" Kennedy, a former producer and writer for television stations KCBS and KCET, where he started the news program "Life & Times," has died. He was 65.

Kennedy died Oct. 5 at his home in Palo Alto of liver cancer brought on by hepatitis C, said his daughter, Laura Kennedy.

Although he spent much of his life in Santa Monica, Kennedy moved to Palo Alto in 1995 and earned a second master's degree, in social work from San Jose State University. He became a hospice counselor on death and dying.

A graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio, Kennedy earned a master of fine arts degree in film production from UCLA and spent 1968 to 1979 as an independent producer, writer and editor of about 40 documentaries.

He joined KCBS-TV Channel 2 in 1979 as a producer and writer for the news department's special projects and investigative unit. He later became executive producer of the station's documentary and public affairs unit.

Kennedy moved to KCET-TV Channel 28, Los Angeles' Public Broadcast System outlet, in early 1986 as director of news and current affairs. He soon became executive producer of two new public affairs shows: "7:30" and "California Stories."

When "Life & Times" was launched in 1992, Kennedy served as its executive producer. The concept for the Monday-through-Friday public affairs program, he told The Times then, was to create a flexible and affordable format for long and short pieces as well as discussions of current affairs. Included were studio discussions of recent news events and profiles of Southern Californians

"It's an interesting combination of things we have been wanting to do for a while," he said. "Some [subjects] need five minutes; some things need 20 minutes. Some need the studio."

During his television career, Kennedy won half a dozen Emmys for public affairs programs and in 1982 shared a Columbia-Dupont Journalism Award for his work in the KCBS investigations unit.

In 1990, Kennedy became the publisher, managing editor and chief salesman for Clover Park Press, a small publishing company he started with his former wife of 30 years, Geraldine.

Their first book was "From the Center of the Earth: Stories Out of the Peace Corps." It featured short articles of fiction and nonfiction by former Peace Corps volunteers. The couple met when both were teaching in the Peace Corps in Liberia in 1962.

In addition to his daughter, Kennedy is survived by his second wife, Suzanne Abel; two sons, Peter and Alex; a stepdaughter, Marina Vidor; his mother, Nancy Kennedy; two sisters, Katy and Marianna Kennedy; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service is pending. For details, contact the family by e-mail at

The family has asked that any donations be made to the Friends of Liberia, 4300 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20011, or to Pathways Home Health & Hospice, 585 N. Mary Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94085.