Hal Kennedy dies
Hal Kennedy, the man known as the Walter Cronkite of Colorado Springs, died Sept. 21 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
He was 82.
Kennedy started as news anchor at KKTV/Channel 11 in 1956 and was a fixture on local televisions for 33 years. When he retired in 1989, Kennedy had served more years at a single station than anyone else in the country.
“I think he had credibility above and beyond what most people achieve,” said Mike Madson, the former KKTV meteorologist. “If Hal said it, it was true.”
Kennedy hired Bill Huddy, now a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs communications professor, twice — first as a reporter and later as an anchor. He remembers the enormous amount of trust Kennedy earned in his years on the anchor desk.
“The viewers here came to depend on Hal,” Huddy said, “not only as a source for information, but as a bedrock of the community.”
Current KKTV anchor Don Ward grew up watching Kennedy.
“I remember turning on the news and his was the face you saw and the voice you heard,” Ward said.
When Ward took the anchor position at KKTV last year, “I remember thinking it would be an honor to have the same job he once held.”
For all the gravitas Kennedy projected on the air, his friends and family say he had a great sense of humor and loved practical jokes when he was off camera.
“I always told him, ‘Hal, you’ve been here since Custer was killed,” said KKTV sports anchor John Owens, who was hired by Kennedy in 1981. “Hal was such a great guy. He joked, he laughed.”
KRDO/Channel 13 news director Dave Rose was one of Kennedy’s competitors, but also a friend, for nearly two decades.
“He just loved the business. He loved television news,” Rose said. “All of the enduring anchor people leave a mark on the industry. I think Hal’s in that category.”
Behind Kennedy’s public persona was a dedicated family man, who shared dinner with his wife, Connie — who died in 1997 — and three children between the 5:30 and 10 p.m. newscasts. He and Connie were married 50 years.
“He had the opportunity to go to much bigger markets, even New York, but chose to stay here because he wanted to raise us kids here,” said his daughter Sherry Thompson. “We were a priority for him.”
When Thompson’s daughter Caitlin was 2, she saw her grandfather on TV and held up a book for him to read to her.
“She was quite disappointed that he didn’t talk back to her and read her the book,” Thompson said.
“My dad was a humble man,” said Susan Prutting, Kennedy’s daughter. “He never engaged in anything that he wasn’t 100 percent up front proud of, that could stand any test of scrutiny.”
Although Kennedy was born in North Dakota and began his broadcasting career there, he became deeply devoted to Colorado Springs, where he moved after serving in World War II.
“Colorado Springs mattered to him,” said Diane Benninghoff, assistant vice president for advancement at Colorado College who worked with Kennedy for 13 years and was a weather forecaster on KKTV. “He had countless opportunities to go other places and he chose to stay in Colorado Springs.”
And the city seemed to love him back. In a poll the Gazette held in 1999, 10 years after he retired, readers named him the best local broadcaster of the century. He was also honored as the Colorado Broadcasters Association broadcaster of the year and earned the group’s broadcast achievement award. Benninghoff said KKTV was the top-rated local station for 17 years in a row during his tenure there.
Kennedy is survived by his three children, Thompson, Prutting and his son Scott Kennedy, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and his longtime companion Sylvia Kalish.
A memorial service for Kennedy will be held 1 p.m. Oct. 10 at Pulpit Rock Church’s West Campus, 301 Austin Bluffs Parkway.