Government, News

Former two-term Mon County Commissioner Kennedy dies

MORGANTOWN — Former Monongalia County Commissioner and longtime WVU Extension Services agent Asel Kennedy, 74, passed away on Friday.

Kennedy worked as an extension agent for three decades, from 1968-1998, before being elected to the county commission, in 2001. He was re-elected once and served until Dec. 31, 2012.

His efforts on behalf of WVU and the county came alongside decades of volunteer work with organizations, such as the youth services center, 4-H and a number of others.

“Asel Kennedy had a fabulous career as an Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Monongalia County,” WVU Extension Services Dean and Director Steven Bonanno said. “He made significant contributions to our community. He was a great colleague, and I am saddened to hear of his passing.”

Kennedy was a farmer, a teacher, a banker and a radio and TV personality. He hosted the Farm Report, which he once described to The Dominion Post — “For five minutes, I talked about the weather and bugs.”

At various times, he wrote a Sunday column and hosted a 30-minute show on WNPB TV where he would teach people about agriculture through demonstrations in sheep shearing, beekeeping and a variety of other topics.

Kennedy is remembered as someone who could be counted upon to deliver — whether it be a phone number, some obscure bit of Monongalia County history or star turns as KORN radio newscaster Charlie Farquharson in live performances of “Hee Haw” — as he did to help raise funds for the Core Community Center.

Diane DeMedici worked with Kennedy throughout his tenure with the county. She retired as the county administrator in 2015, after 41 years in the commission office. Kennedy attended her final meeting.

She said his thoroughness as a public servant was surpassed  only by his compassion as an individual.

“Working for Asel as a commissioner was a pleasure, although sometimes one of us could be a little stubborn,” DeMedici said. “There have been times I know he personally helped people in need and didn’t expect publicity or recognition.”

DeMedici said she would often tease Kennedy, claiming he kept his cash buried in coffee cans in the backyard.

“He will be greatly missed,” she said.

Eldon Callen, vice president of community affairs and economic development for the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, served alongside Kennedy on the county commission — long after the two were first acquainted. Callen said his family knew Kennedy prior to his days as an extension agent. The two would later work together on the youth services board before teaming up again as commissioners.

“We agreed on a lot of things. Some things we didn’t agree on, but Asel and I always had what I would classify as a history of friendship that went back to when I was in high school and he was just getting out of college,” Callen said. “So we worked together, and I always thought we had a good working relationship where we could do a number of good things.”

Callen went on to say that Kennedy carried a little black notebook in which he kept a wealth of valuable information stored away. When Callen was new on the commission, he said he wanted to explore working with the state on the Hartman Run Bridge. Kennedy reached for the book and laid out all the relevant contacts.

“He was just always supportive in that way. I’ll always think favorably on him,” Callen said. “He’s a good Monongalian that we’ll really miss.”

Kennedy opted not to seek re-election in 2012.  Tom Bloom was elected to fill the Western District seat. Bloom serves as the current commission president.

“This is a tremendous loss to our community,” Bloom said. “He was an important fixture in our community and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Current Commissioner Ed Hawkins said he knew Kennedy for 30 or more years. He said he was always impressed by Kennedy’s willingness to get involved and his attention to detail.

“His morning radio show and his little black notebook were indicative of a man with a passion for making sure things were followed through in a proper fashion,” Hawkins said, recalling Kennedy was the first person he spoke to after being elected to the commission — albeit  in an unsuccessful attempt to lay claim to that valued notebook.

When asked to describe Kennedy, Hawkins offers two words. The first, “parsimonious,” is followed by a long laugh. The second word offered: “Teacher.”

“If you wanted to label him and say what he was — not as a county commissioner, not as a county agent. He was a teacher. You could learn from a man, and learn from that man’s life,” Hawkins said. “That was the measure of the man, Asel Kennedy.”

McCulla Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements, which are incomplete. A full obituary will appear in Sunday’s newspaper.