Mabel Estelle Wragg Kennedy made sure her son was grounded in Christian values and practiced in reflecting them daily. William Cannon Kennedy became a father who understood how to balance discipline and forgiveness and a husband who knew that marriage was godly and should include romance.

Those he advised as a deacon at Fellowship of Oakbrook would never hear refined responses from him, says Chris Kennedy, his son. The senior Kennedy remained a little rough around the edges, something like the apostle Peter, his son says.

“My dad came from what I call abject poverty,” Kennedy says.

As a young boy, William Cannon Kennedy slept in the front seat of a pickup for a while. Either one Christmas or for a birthday, his present was a new bucket for carrying his family’s water, and he was glad to have it.

“My little boy Cash, who is 4, goes to a Christian school,” Kennedy says. “They don’t have Halloween, they have Hero Day. Me being a firefighter, I assumed he wanted to dress up like fireman for Hero Day. But he said, ‘I want to be Papa ... because he’s strong.’

“As long as my dad was around, everything was going to be OK,” Kennedy says.

“He was an incredible, top-notch dad, guiding you, but never being judgmental,” Kennedy says. That came naturally to him.

“When I was in high school, I went through a phase of rebellion.

“My mom called him and he came home from work. The report card had come and I just knew I was going to get it. We walked around the neighborhood, a long walk. He didn’t say anything to me until we got back home.

“Then he said, ‘Sport, if you don’t get yourself together, you are going to military school. I was on the honor roll the following semester, and that was the last word said about it. There was discipline and forgiveness all at once.”

His actions often reminded his children that he saw their mother as more than a mom, Kennedy says. “After 30-something years, she would walk by, and he would grab her and dance with her,” Kennedy says. “He would dance with her in the kitchen.”

Sometimes, he would let her get out of their car, get 10 or 15 feet away, then start to whistle and holler at her.

“When you’re a teenager in the school parking lot, and your dad is hollering at your mom, it’s embarrassing,” Kennedy says. “We would duck and say, ‘What are you doing? Shut up! Everybody is looking at us!’ He explained it to me later on,” Kennedy says. “She wasn’t just our mom, but his girl.”

At home, in church, at work, wherever, Kennedy gave everyone his due, his son says.

“There was complete and total acceptance from my dad. It did not matter what you had done or where you had been, there was no pretense. There was nobody who would believe that Bill Kennedy did not love them.”

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.