Ex-Fresno Visitors Bureau exec Lloyd Kennedy Jr. dies
Lloyd E. Kennedy Jr., who for years led Fresno’s efforts to bring conventions and special events to the city, died Monday after an extended illness.
He was 68 years old, one week shy of his 69th birthday on July 1.
Mr. Kennedy was the executive director of the Fresno Convention & Visitors Bureau from 1986 until his retirement in 2005. He joined the bureau in 1967 as its convention sales manager.
Mike Dages, a former Fresno City Council member, recalled Mr. Kennedy’s dedication to the convention business. When he was on the council, Dages led an unsuccessful effort to get part of the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center named for Mr. Kennedy.
“He was so determined to get as many events here into Fresno, especially in downtown,” Dages said. “It was amazing. The bureau was a part of everyday living for him. He ate, slept, walked and talked everything for the convention bureau.”
While the city did not name a building for Mr. Kennedy, a granite plaque honoring him was dedicated in March 2011 in the lobby of the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center’s Exhibit Hall.
Before joining the convention bureau, Mr. Kennedy worked for the old Hacienda Hotel in central Fresno, booking conventions and meetings into the hotel during its heyday for about two years.
His work there attracted the attention of Robert Schoettler, then head of the convention bureau, who recruited him away from the hotel to work for the bureau in convention sales.
Mr. Kennedy was born in San Francisco. The family moved to Riverdale when he was a youngster. “We used to work on some of the farms out there, working crops and even herding sheep,” said his brother, Daral Kennedy, 67.
“Lloyd was more of an introvert as a young kid, but he became just the opposite when he grew up.”
Daral Kennedy said his older brother played basketball and ran track at Riverdale High School before the family later settled in Clovis. In the early 1960s, their younger brother Garry joined them and other friends to form a roller-hockey team, the Kennedy Marauders, coached by their dad, Lloyd Sr., that won one state championship and competed in three national playoff tournaments.
Later, in his capacity with the convention and visitors bureau, Mr. Kennedy took great pride in bringing USA Roller Skating’s national indoor championships to Fresno, attracting more than 3,500 competitors to the city in 1998, Daral Kennedy said. Mr. Kennedy and his wife, Jolene, were also competitive roller figure skaters.
Among his other accomplishments was work revitalizing downtown Fresno’s historic water tower, establishing the first Sports and Film Commission for the city, promoting the development of what is now known as the Radisson Hotel, and bringing the Promise Keepers gathering of more than 40,000 men to Fresno’s Bulldog Stadium in 1998.
But Mr. Kennedy’s tenure was marred at the end by a bookkeeper’s embezzlement of bureau funds.
The bookkeeper was accused of using bureau credit cards, apparently including Mr. Kennedy’s card, to buy thousands of dollars of personal goods. Auditors flagged the expenditures, and Mr. Kennedy — unaware of the auditors’ concerns — signed a memo at the bookkeeper’s behest after he retired stating that charges he made on the credit card in the 2005-06 fiscal year were for bureau business. He had retired 15 days into that fiscal year.
Mr. Kennedy said he had been duped into signing the memo.
Mr. Kennedy was diagnosed in about 2000 with myositis, a rare disease that causes inflammation of the skeletal muscles.
“Most people last about five or seven years with this,” Daral Kennedy said, “but Lloyd fought this disease very bravely.”
Lloyd E. Kennedy Jr.
– Age: 68
– Born: July 1, 1943
– Died: June 25, 2012
– Occupation: Former executive director, Fresno Convention & Visitors Bureau
– Survivors: Wife Jolene; son David Kennedy; daughter, Shurene Gomez and her husband, Joe; five grandchildren; mother, Dolores; brothers Daral and Garry Kennedy.
– Services:Visitation and viewing will be 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Boice Funeral Home in Clovis. A graveside funeral will be at 9:30 a.m. July 6 at the Clovis Cemetery, followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m. at the G.L. Johnson Chapel at the Peoples Church in Fresno.
By Tim Sheehan