Leola Sudduth Kennedy
Family and friends are celebrating the life of their matriarch Leola Sudduth Kennedy, who died in her Pasadena home on January 2.
“My mother was a very humble woman who dedicated her life to her children,” said John J. Kennedy, one of Leola’s ten children.
“She never had an unkind word for anyone. She was selfless and would sacrifice her very last for us. Her legacy is for her children to be as selfless as she was.”
Leola Sudduth Kennedy was born on June 29, 1923 in Starkville, Mississippi to J.D. Sudduth and Bessie Mae Plair Sudduth. She was the 3rd of 18 children of whom only 9 survived past childhood, her family said.
Leola grew up on an over 200 acre farm that her father purchased, which was a great accomplishment for a black man in the South during the early 1900s. That farm remains in the family as a cherished part of the family heritage and legacy.
As a child, Leola loved basketball and excelled in her Home Economics classes. Leola was fortunate to complete her high school education at Oktibbeha Training Boarding School (now Henderson High School) in Starkville. This was a significant feat; at that time, most blacks in the South had to leave school after the eighth or ninth grade. After finishing high school, Leola planned a career as a nurse. With the help and support of her father, she moved to California to pursue her dream.
Upon arriving in California, Leola began working at USC – Los Angeles County Medical Center. There she met United States Army Sergeant Thomas Foster Kennedy. The couple married in 1950. Leola joined her husband in Pasadena where they reared ten children.
According to those who knew her, the matriarch had a deep sense of spirituality and faith.
“Her faith sustained her over the years and was visible in her sense of responsibility, commitment and care for others,” said family members.
“She had a Christ-like spirit. She lived by Christian principles that were demonstrated in her understanding and compassion for her family, friends and neighbors. Her faith provided guidance and support. She loved getting up early each morning to have her devotion and prayer time with God. When something went wrong, an accident or family problem, she would immediately pray and quote scripture. Under pressure, she was always calm and not easily rattled. Her faith was unyielding and strong…”
Besides her faith, her devotion to her children was also notable.
“Her children were her crown of glory,” they said.
“She would always say, ‘my happiness is my children.’ She gave more than was deserved and her sacrifice was endless.”
She took pleasure in the simple things, they said, like See’s Candy, Sunday dinners and the Ed Sullivan Show.
Leola was preceded in death by her husband, Thomas Kennedy; two children Michael Kennedy (Faye) and Gladys Kennedy; her brothers: Monroe Sudduth, Theodore Sudduth, Willie D. Sudduth and Pete Sudduth; her sisters Bernice Bishop, Kittie Mae Carruthers, Suzie Brandy and Georgia Kate Mason. She leaves to cherish her memory two sisters: Almeda Sudduth Taylor and Lottie Bevill; eight children: Geraldine Kennedy, Malcolm Kennedy (Elizabeth), Sharon Billlingslea (Jack), Rosalinda Spratling, Lena L. Kennedy, Elizabeth Ellis (Redell), John J. Kennedy and Glenda Kennedy; 15 grandchildren; 22 great grandchildren; and many more members of her extended family and friends.