Elizabeth Withers Kennedy

by Lynn McMillen
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Elizabeth Withers Kennedy, 82, of Huntsville, Alabama, died peacefully at home on January 27, 2023, after a brief struggle with lung cancer superimposed on a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Elizabeth was born May 12, 1940, in Columbia, South Carolina, to Frank Caldwell Withers (1906 – 1979) and Louise Sherfesee Withers (1907 – 1981). After graduating high school in Columbia, Elizabeth attended her mother’s alma mater, Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, where she graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics. She soon began a career as a computer programmer at the Lockheed-Georgia Company, contributing to software that improved well-known and long-serving military transport airframes. It was at Lockheed that she met her future husband, Jim Kennedy, also a computer programmer. The two were married April 6, 1963.

With the arrival of her son James Robert, Jr. “Robert” in 1966, she suspended her computer programming career to focus on raising a family at home. A job change for Jim in 1967 occasioned the family’s move to Huntsville, Alabama, and their younger son William Caldwell was born in 1968. Ever devoted to her sons’ education and development, she built her life around transporting and teaching them, organizing their schedules, and volunteering with all manner of institutions and activities. She also deeply pursued several of her own passions: for gardening she and Jim earned several beautification awards for outstanding landscape architecture and cultivation, and in addition she studied and collected antiques, gave her time for community service, and did it all while building and enjoying innumerable close and joyful friendships.

After a period committed to volunteering with at-risk youth at the Huntsville Delinquency Prevention Center and substitute teaching at Randolph School where her sons were students, Elizabeth re-entered the computer programming workforce, first with Falcon Research and Amalgamated Business Systems, later moving on to Computer Sciences Corporation, Nichols Research Corporation, NCCIM, and Erica Lane Enterprises where she was a Technical Director responsible for a team of around 150 engineers and managers. By the end of her computing career, she had been called back out of retirement twice. Though she proudly enjoyed her many projects focused on military weapon systems, she always said her favorite had been a software system for train traffic control in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. In retirement she was proud to share career perspective and mentorship, especially with younger women in computing fields.

Her sons grown, Elizabeth relished travel with her husband Jim, memorably visiting Italy, China, and Scotland. She expanded her hobbies to include gathering and documenting a formidable collection of Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls of the kind she had so enjoyed during her childhood. A notable beneficiary of her service during this period was the Huntsville Botanical Garden.

She had struggled for a number of years with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, even as she cared lovingly and selflessly for her husband Jim in his own aging process.

Elizabeth was predeceased by her sister, Louise Withers Huggins, and is survived by her husband, James Robert Kennedy, Sr.; her two sons, James Robert Kennedy, Jr. and William Caldwell Kennedy and their wives, Linda Ann Cicero and Angela Marie Wood Kennedy; and her two grandsons, Matthew Caldwell Kennedy and Weston Douglas Kennedy.

The family would like to offer a special thanks to all the caregivers who made it possible for Elizabeth to live the final years of her life comfortably at home with her husband Jim, in happy and familiar surroundings.

A service in Elizabeth’s memory is scheduled for 2:00 pm on Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at Laughlin Service Funeral Home, to be followed by a brief graveside ceremony.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Huntsville Botanical Garden (https://hsvbg.org) or in support of cancer research through the Providence Portland Medical Foundation (https://foundation.providence.org/oregon/portland).

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