The John Kenny Story

Part 15

After The Missions

After the missions, Kenny took on additional responsibilities in New York, as the Business Manager for Devoy’s paper The Gaelic American, a co-founder and Chairman of the Friends of Irish Freedom, a member of the American Irish Historical Society, and involvement with the Cumann na mBan, as well as a frequently-published writer and poet.

In demand as a speaker, he often addressed meetings and banquets along with Devoy, Daniel F. Cohalan, John Carroll, and other prominent Irish Americans. According to one member, Kenny and Devoy were such close associates that speaking to one was as good as speaking to the other.

He had at one point – maybe well before 1914 – proposed a reconciliation to Annie, but she after some consideration had decided against it.

In the Fall of 1924, his health failing, he was alone and trying unsuccessfully to get into a nursing home. He caught pneumonia on Christmas and died on Dec. 27.

The Gaelic American carried the news of his death on the front page, printing expressions of sympathy from a multitude of Irish American organizations for weeks afterwards.

A special Mass was held in his honor for all the Irish societies, sponsored by the Cummann na mBan, which wrote that Kenny was “one of their most valued friends, and one of the sincerest, noblest, and most intelligent friends of Ireland who was ever ready to assist wholeheartedly and unselfishly…”

The Napper Tandy Club wrote:  “Poet, patriot and scholar, a character of sterling excellence actuated by the most laudable motives, for a half century a member of the Napper Tandy Club, he trod the path of wholehearted consecration to his country’s cause, with a constancy of spirit, a modesty worthy of imitation, and a quiet determination to do his part.”

The Irish Republican Brotherhood Veteran’s Association wrote of their former president that he was “a true and tried comrade, a wise counselor, a courteous and cultivated gentleman, and a faithful and untiring worker in the cause, to which he had so unselfishly devoted a long and useful life.”

There was no mention of his children or grandchildren. But he had never forgotten them. When his daughters picked up his personal effects from the hospital they found in the pocket of his suit jacket, the letter sent to him by his son Christopher, then 12 years old, when he had traveled to The Mount a few months ahead of Kenny. The letter ended with a poem:

As I sailed out that summer day,

I gave my last look at New York Bay,

And when I looked in my father’s face,

I saw in it still that beautiful grace

Which cares for us all.

With true expressions of love and gratitude I remain your affectionate son,



Kenny is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, N.Y. under a headstone that says simply “Kenny.”


Kenny Headstone


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