David Kennedy, a lawyer widely respected for his problem-solving abilities and sage advice in the areas of public finance and municipal law, died of complications from lung cancer Sunday at the N.C. Little Hospice in Edina. He was 77.
Born in Edina, Kennedy rode streetcars to De La Salle High School in Minneapolis, from which he graduated in the late 1940s. He earned a degree in English literature from the University of Notre Dame in 1953, then joined the Navy as an aviator. He loved flying and piloted his first solo flight when he was 14, said his son Mike, of Plymouth.
David Kennedy earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1960, then served for seven years as an attorney for the League of Minnesota Cities. After stints as director of the Minnesota Office of Local and Urban Affairs and as assistant Senate counsel for the Minnesota Senate, he joined the firm of LeFevere, Lefler, Kennedy, O'Brien & Drawz in 1972. He later helped merge that firm's municipal law and public finance practices with another firm, which became Kennedy & Graven, his son said.
"He was a great teacher and mentor," said Jim Thompson, a longtime friend and past president of Kennedy & Graven. "He was gentle, he was kind and was always willing to take the time to talk and offer suggestions, and to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously."
His passion for public service led him to help found the Community Investment Fund, a nonprofit that attempts to change the lives of people living in economically distressed communities by supplying capital to development lenders so they can take on such projects as helping small businesses, building affordable housing and creating and preserving jobs.
"He was a board member that anybody would like to have; he was passionate about our mission, and he brought humor to our meetings," said fund president Frank Altman.
Kennedy also served as city attorney for the cities of Crystal and Sandstone and was an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University-Mankato.
He retired from practicing law in 2008, and just last month was selected by the Minnesota State Bar Association to receive the Douglas K. Amdahl Public Attorney Career Achievement Award, his son said.
Kennedy helped secure land for the Caponi Art Park in Eagan, and served as its president from 1997 to 2001, said owner and operator Toni Caponi.
He was constantly learning and challenging his mind by reading, and he taught himself Italian because "it was a beautiful language," Mike said. He also liked playing the piano.
In addition to his son, Mike, he is survived by his wife of 55 years, Mitzi, and brother Leo, both of Bloomington; two daughters, Jane Kennedy, of Minneapolis, and Mary Kennedy, of Valparaiso, Ind.; two other sons, Dave, of Bloomington, and Bill, of Minneapolis, and nine grandchildren.
A private service and burial will be held Friday at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. A reception open to the public will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Hotel Sofitel, 5601 W. 78th St., Bloomington.