Michael Kennedy introduced his wife Eleanora to Ireland many moons ago. They owned a home there in The Black Valley. It was their place. Michael passed away several years ago, but Eleanora now spends half the year in Ireland where she has quickly gained legendary status at the racetrack.
“Two-years ago was my first race, Champions Weekend at the Leopardstown Racecourse,” she explains, “Not knowing a bit about racing, my gorgeous filly, Panama Red, still won. I wore a fabulous hat, the wrong shoes, a COVID mask, and I cried. Happiness. The ‘not guilty!’ kind of happiness.”
“Michael was on my mind, and how proud he would be of me. There was a champagne trophy presentation. I was off and running with my horses and my new life. 14 first place wins in Ireland, 2 Royal Ascots, and the Bahrain stakes later, I sit in my home in the renovated stables at The K Club in Kildare. What a journey. A way to help fill the void. Ireland with the lime green grass, the best trainers in the world, and the family love of the sport. How lucky am I?!”
Eleanora now has established Michael John Kennedy Memorial Irish Stakes Race at The Curragh where Eleanora and her much loved daughter, Anna, hosted a luncheon for trainers and their wives, plus new friends including Jackie Bolger, Audrey Brophy, Maureen Catterson, Aine Gorman, Brendan Hoare, Aurelija Kupryte, Ger Lynn, Kerri Lyons, Brenda Norton, Michael O’Callaghan, Daragh O’Conchuir, Karen and Connor O’Kelly, Gillian and Brian O’Loughlin, Ross O’Sullivan, Elaine and Tom Taffe, Breid Travers, Katie Walsh, and Helen and Ted Walsh.
The race card read:
A Rebel and a Rogue. A righteous Irish American Defense Attorney who enjoyed a long and successful career as an expert in U.S. Constitutional Law and a Civil Rights Advocate who tried cases in 36 States and was admitted to practice law in the United States Supreme Court.
Michael Kennedy, known as an exceptional strategist, was a steadfast defender of The Underdog and the First Amendment. He served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army while opposing the war in Vietnam and representing conscientious objectors. He was devoted to Justice with grace, dignity, and a good dose of toughness. His integrity, courage, and fearlessness were legendary.
A warrior for the rights of the oppressed and dispossessed, he had the courage of a lion but always found peace in all things Irish. His love and devotion for Ireland was absolute. The Kennedy’s Cottage in the Black Valley provided him with comfort and privacy for the four decades he lived in ‘the back of the beyond’. It was filled with stacks of his beloved books by Irish authors, Paddy’s, Guinness, and roaring fires, in front of which he would read Yeats aloud to his Eleanora.
Just outside… The Purple Mountain he climbed, the Upper Lake of Killarney for a row, the neighbors’ scones. Oh, it was his Heaven on Earth.
Michael, the fearless legend, was described as ‘having his heart and soul invested in Irish Freedom’ and in the New York Times obituary as ‘a consummate gentleman with a quick Irish wit and quick Irish temper’. Though he rarely raised his voice, some said he was the personification of Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy. ‘Speak softly but carry a big stick.’
He was unfailing in his loyalty and generosity to his wife Eleanora, children Anna, Scott, and Lisa, and his five grandchildren.
Michael’s extensive archives live in the New York Public Library, while the Social Justice Award in his name is presented in Washington DC each September.
He is always with me… especially here in Ireland and honored to be with all of us today.
At the lunch a thrilled Eleanora Kennedy announced, “How blessed I was to be his mate, closest friend, and favorite date.”