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Donald Ray Kennard – A Life Well Lived

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Central Loses a Cornerstone –

Anyone who knew Donald Ray Kennard knew him to be a warm-hearted, caring, dedicated individual. He gave much to Central for over 30 years, and his passing marks the end of an era.

Donald Ray passed away last Friday morning, 4 days before his 74th birthday, leaving behind many wonderful memories and much gratitude from across this nation. Many have left reminiscences on websites like Tiger Droppings and Facebook, sharing of Donald Ray’s generosity, help in time of need, wry sense of humor, and deep sense of service. "He had a love for people and a real heart for the community," shared his long time friend Clif Richardson, who took over Donald Ray’s Seat in the House in 2001 after he stepped down. "Many people thanked him for his help in getting into college. He just new how to help people solve problems. He would try to solve whatever concerns people had to make the community better. He had a warm feeling for people." Mayor Mac Watts added, "He and his parents were life long residents of Central who dedicated their lives to making Central the best place on earth to live."

Raised in a home committed to public service, Donald Ray understood the importance of helping his fellow man through the examples of his father Sterling, longtime Justice of the Peace in the Central area, and his mother Camille, who started the tradition of inviting legislators to her home for a home cooked meal, an event that grew to include hundreds of people. He began his political career as early as high school when he was elected Class President of his 1954 Central High School Senior Class. He was later elected to Central’s Hall of Fame. After lettering in football, basketball, baseball and track, he went on to Southeastern Louisiana University on a basketball scholarship and majored in Education. He was hired immediately after graduation by Dr. Clyde Lindsey to coach and teach at Istrouma High School. Dr. Lindsey, who shared "I was privileged to have had the privilege to know him," encouraged him to pursue a Masters degree.

Donald Ray enrolled at LSU to earn a Masters In Education. During his stay there, he coached the freshman basketball team. One of his team members was Pete Maravich. When the head coach of the varsity team became ill, Donald Ray stepped in and coached the varsity in a game against Alabama. Eventually he was hired as Academic Advisor in the Athletic Department at LSU, launching a long and storied career at that institution. Following this, he was the LSU Assistant Athletic Director in Charge of Sales and Marketing. Donald Ray was asked to be the "spotter" for the broad cast team, a position he held for over 40 years. His fellow broadcaster Jim Hawthorne shared in an LSU news release, "Donald Ray was a dear friend in addition to a very valuable part of the radio broadcast team. He always took a lot of pride in his part of our broadcast and did an excellent job." Donald Ray was also past president of the American Professional Guidance Association and a member of the National Association of Academic Advisors. He is listed in Who’s Who of Louisiana.

Joining the Air Force Reserve, he served for 10 years after basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. He married Ramona (Mona) Norris and they would eventually have 2 daughters, Robin and Stacy. Stacy would go on to marry David Doucet and have 4 children.

In 1976 Donald Ray won the seat in the House of Representatives he would hold for 8 terms, stepping down only because of term limits. It was there he met future Governor Kathleen Blanco, who shared how Donald Ray took her under his wing. "He made sure I knew every important person I needed to. I have never known someone with such a capacity to connect so intimately with so many people." In 1995 he switched party affiliations from Democrat to Republican. While in office he served as Vice Chairperson of The Houston Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice, and as the Chairperson of the American Legislative Exchange Council. In 1996, Donald Ray authored legislation called "Truth In Sentencing", which states that a person convicted of a violent crime must serve 85 percent of their sentence. As a result of the passage of this legislation, he won the "Crime Fighter of the Year Award" from Victims and Citizens against Crime. He was also a leader in the effort to give Central its own school system. Roger Villere, chairperson of the Republican Party of Louisiana, issued this statement, "Donald Kennard was a friend and a passionate supporter of the Republican party and our conservative ideals. Always entertaining, Don was sought after by College Republicans and Republican Women’s groups looking for a few laughs sprinkled in with their politics. He will certainly be missed."

Hundreds of people came to Donald Ray Kennard’s wake and funeral. Many touching tributes were given in his memory. His lifelong friend Jerry Alford summed up his life with the following scripture from Second Timothy: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

6 Comments

  1. Mike Mannino

    August 11, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I hope that people who attended Mr Kennards funeral heard the same message I did from the distinguised speakers about Mr Kennard. He was a selfless man, who loved his Family, people, and CENTRAL first. Everything he did was about helping others, not one favor asked was for him personally. He ended every conversation with teh comment, let me know if i can do something for you. He loved Central and he had become disgusted with what was going on out here. If you were not tremendously moved and inspired to focus on whats best for Central by all you heard Tuesday, you need to reflect on what you are doing. Mr Kennard and people like him are exactly why I moved out here and was worried it was disappearing. I left that service with renewed hope for the old Central and will be one of many to continue the legacy of Mr. Kennard. Honesty, integrity, fierce defense and preservation of the community we love, and looking out for others. Thank you Mr. Kennard ! You will be missed but always remembered.

  2. Because I Care

    August 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Mr. Donald Ray Kennard’s life story and caring commitment to the people of Central, as well as to the larger populace that he represented even beyond Central, serves as an inspiration! A life well lived, indeed!

  3. Robin Kennard

    July 26, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Just found this article online… Correction in the first paragraph. Donald Ray did not step down from his legislative seat in 2001. He served from 1976 – 2008. Clif never took over that legislative seat. Both were elected and serve in two different sytles.

  4. Robin Kennard

    July 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    and will leave leave two very different legacies……….

    • dave

      July 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      My apologies. The date was purely a typo. Later in the article Mia acknowledges his 8 terms beginning in 1976. I believe the intent of “stepped down” was to acknowledge that Mr. Kennard could likely have served as long as his health would allow, and that it was his decision not to rub for another term. Perhaps we could have chosen a better phrase.

      I hope that you feel Mia did give the reader at least a feel for the level of love and respect so many had for your father. Tributes at the passing of anyone are difficult to write, and I know that Mia intended nothing but the best. She enjoyed the many art lessons with your Mom and always speaks fondly of Donald Ray.

  5. Robin Kennard

    July 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Thanks Dave – I do understand and in light of recent events, that I am sure you are aware of, and “legacies” to be remembered, I wanted to go on the record and clear this up. Things have certainly changed in a year – frienships are different – I am very glad dad nor my grandmother were here to endure what is not a rumor – it has not been easy and they would be devastated. This article certainly makes one appreciate the honesty and morals and public service my father unselfishly gave to this wonderful community as we approach the one year anniversay of living without him in our family and our community. My comment was not directed at Mia or you. You have a sweet talented wife and I have not had the opportunity to ever be formally introduced to you. Thanks for your very nice words and for all you do for Central.

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