THE unexpected death on 28 January of Leo William Kennedy, known in the De La Salle order as Brother Ignatius, brought to an end over 60 years of religious life dedicated to teaching.
‘Iggy’ (seen here with three De La Salle brothers) as he was known to thousands of pupils over 60 years, had retired to the Brothers' home in Cronulla, Sydney, only in 2013, after returning from Papua New Guinea where he spent 27 years as a teacher and mentor.
Born in Melbourne in 1931, Iggy was a member of the Kennedy clan renowned for its contribution over three generations to the famed Hawthorn Australian Rules club.
His elder brother John was team captain from 1955 to 1959 and later coach, taking the Hawks to five grand finals and three premierships. John's son also played for Hawthorn as did his grandson Josh before moving to his present role with the Sydney Swans.
During Iggy's first teaching appointment to De La Salle in Coogee, NSW, a rugby union playing school, young students were astounded by the manner in which their new sports coach could kick a rugby ball from one end of the field to the other.
They were puzzled at how, instead of standing with two feet planted on the ground and elbows tucked firmly into the ribs while waiting for a kicked ball to arrive, Iggy would leap upwards to grab it from the sky well beyond the reach of stationary players. In those days, rugby players rarely jumped up even in lineouts.
After terms at Australian country and urban schools from 1952 to 1984, Leo was sent as principal to the Brothers' high school at Bomana near Port Moresby where he remained from 1985 to 1993.
The following year he moved to Mount Hagen where he was to stay until 2012 involved in teacher training at Holy Trinity Teachers College which has produced over 1,000 teachers now working throughout PNG.
Even in retirement back in Australia, Brother Iggy was grateful for the love of his religious community, his unflagging enthusiasm for the Hawks and the endearment of the many people he had met and befriended over his years in PNG.
That the latter friendships were reciprocated was evident at his funeral when a group of Papua New Guineans in traditional dress sang in harmony while a PNG flag was draped over Iggy’s coffin.
Just a month before his death, he had been eagerly preparing for a return visit to PNG but instead his life was to be commemorated by a series of masses in the four regions of his beloved adopted country.