NEWBURGH – After a valiant, nearly two year-long battle with ovarian cancer, Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy has succumbed to her illness. She was 73 at the time of her death this morning (Sunday).
City Manager Michael Ciaravino and Orange County Legislator Kevindaryan Lujan confirmed the sad news.
Even as she underwent treatment, Mayor Kennedy still attended city council meetings periodically, but she made very few public appearances. Recently, a celebration was held in the Fullerton Mansion on Grand Street in Newburgh to commemorate her life and legacy as the city’s mayor, where served nearly two terms.
When she first received the diagnosis on May 18, 2016, she underwent a major lifestyle change. The longtime advocate for alternative medicine starting getting chemotherapy treatments in Fishkill’s Hudson Valley Cancer Center.
Although the diagnosis hit the health-conscious mayor hard – she did not consume red meat or soda and also worked as a life coach – Kennedy embraced her last couple of years.
She continued to lead a healthy, organic lifestyle. Her remedies included drinking vegetable juices, getting acupuncture and practicing Reiki meditation.
The mayor also traveled to Mexico for alternative treatments.
Friends and family were a big help throughout her treatment, as they helped her move into a new home and shopped for the food she liked.
That steely determination to survive emerged as a young girl growing up in the Oregon Trail. While her parents worked multiple jobs and moved three times, Kennedy often had to serve as a caregiver to her three younger brothers. At one point, while her family was living in Baker City, Oregon, they filed for bankruptcy. Kennedy knew she was going to lead a different life.
After marrying her high school sweetheart, she left her job as a dental assistant and became a full-time homemaker. She turned that experience into a career as a cake decorator, where she specialized in making wedding cakes for 12 years. She also taught homemaking classes in her local church for 10 years and played an involved role in the church by hosting fundraisers and running its youth group.
These experiences were key for her eventual political aspirations, but she also gained a lot from working her way up in corporate America.
This career path came about after her divorce, where Kennedy decided to start taking computer programming classes at Eastern Oregon State College. She had heard a job ad on the radio the night before her marriage ended for a bookkeeping position, but the role required basic computer programming skills. Eventually, after 86-mile roundtrip commutes to college, she transferred to Colorado State University.
The hard work paid off. With her Bachelor of Science degree in hand, her first job out of college was in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she oversaw the design and implementation of a computer system in the city bus system.
She made the switch to corporate work after getting a job as network administrator for the now-defunct Colorado Memory Systems, a company that manufactured computer tape-backup systems. From there she secured a managerial role in Hewlett Packard after the then-tech giant bought Colorado Memory Systems in 1993.
She worked her way to become senior solutions consultant for Hewlett Packard, where she consulted with some renowned places at the time – AT&T, Baylor University, and Albertsons Supermarket. She then worked for the latter client to fully implement the computer design solution she had first suggested to them several years earlier.
When Albertsons was sold and most of the executive team relocated to Minneapolis, Kennedy opted for another life change; her most important in the Hudson Valley.
She ended up in Newburgh after she bought and renovated a home on Grand Street that her son and his partner were looking to move into. She then brought her work ethic and eye for transformation to this city, where she has become popular with residents since her first election in 2011.
The mayoral race was not too much of a challenge for a woman who has made a career out of beating the odds. She lost the Democratic nomination while running for her second term in 2015, but won after declaring herself an Independent.
Kennedy is survived by her four sons, who live across North America.