By Mareesa Nicosia
MONSEY — Thomas Kennedy had just graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was home for a visit, all fired up for a game with the old Ramapo Saints gang at the Sport-O-Rama ice rink.
“We were just a bunch of washed-up, older players. He had just come out of the Army, all gung-ho, and we told him to relax — this old man’s league wasn’t ready for that amount of energy,” recalled Billy Fortescue of West Nyack, laughing at the memory of his longtime friend. “He never slowed down.”
Army Maj. Kennedy, a 35-year-old New City native, was killed Aug. 8 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, during a suicide attack. It was his first deployment to Afghanistan but he had previously served two tours in Iraq and had been stationed in Korea.
Kennedy is survived by his wife, Kami, and young twins, son Brody Thomas and daughter Margaret Mae. Known as “TK” to loved ones, Kennedy played for the Sport-O-Rama youth hockey league — alongside his brothers — as a Mite in 1983-84 and a Ramapo Saint through 1994. He continued with the sport at Don Bosco Preparatory School.
On Friday, the hockey organization Kennedy loved and was a vital part of will rename the Sport-O-Rama Rink Two in his honor, as the Major Thomas E. Kennedy Memorial Rink. The 6 p.m. dedication ceremony is open to the public and will be followed by a reception for invited guests only. A game will then be played between the Squirt White youth hockey team, coached by Fortescue, and the visiting New Jersey Colonials, coached by Kennedy’s brother George. The Ramapo players are among 400 kids in the organization who now wear “TK” stickers on their helmets.
“We all coach together now and we all know Tommy and we all wanted to have some sort of tribute to him in the rink,” said Fortescue, 42. “This was important to everybody to honor his sacrifice and his family.”
When Kennedy was deployed, the hockey community would send supplies and snacks to his unit, and he regularly kept in touch by email, Fortescue said. Fortescue played hockey with another Kennedy brother, John, when they were boys, and now coaches his own sons at Sport-O-Rama in the same league as George Kennedy’s team.
“My family and their family have been real tight for 30 years now,” Fortescue said. “Tommy was basically like everybody’s little brother. He was younger than everyone but as he got older and went to West Point, he was the one we all looked up to. He was just a super guy.”
A trust fund has been set up for Kennedy’s children. Anyone interested in contributing may send checks to: Major Thomas Kennedy Children’s Trust Fund, c/o John Kennedy, 3715 High Gables East, Cumming, GA 30041.