In memory of John J. Kenney
a U.S. military veteran living with ALS,
living with ALS
**Jay Kenney passed away on September 22, 2022. Below is his story as written during his life.**
John J. Kenney served in the U.S. Army from September 1972 to December 1974. Following Boot Camp at Fort Dix, New Jersey, “Jay” was assigned to the U.S. Army Agency for Aviation Safety (USAAVS) at Fort Rucker, Alabama, as a Research Psychologist. He spent the next two years conducting research in human-factors engineering focusing on ways to improve rotary wing aircraft (helicopter) and pilot safety. He was also active in the Catholic Youth Organization and the Special Olympics for Army dependents and the local community.
Following an honorable discharge in December 1974, Jay joined the Missionary Society of St. Paul (“The Paulist Fathers”) to explore a vocation in ministry as a Catholic priest. (He credits the Army chaplains, Sisters of St. Benedict, and the Catholic Community at Ft. Rucker as instrumental influences in this decision). Though he discerned that a vocation in the priesthood was not his ‘calling,’ Jay remains grateful for the life-changing experiences of ministering to inner-city youth, migrant farmworkers, children with end-stage cancer and the homeless as well as the graduate studies in theology (Jay earned an M.A. in Theology from Catholic University). Consistent with a belief in the value of service to others, he went on to earn a Masters and Doctorate degrees in Social Work from The Catholic University of America.
Jay’s professional career includes serving in local government for 30 years–25 years as Chief, Aging and Disability Services, Montgomery County, MD. His duties included administration of programs serving vulnerable older adults, individuals with intellectual, emotional and physical disabilities and family caregivers. Jay retired from public service in September 2018 to become the Chief Operating Officer for the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA). He was excited about this “encore career” and eager to contribute to the mission of this outstanding nonprofit, nonsectarian health and social service agency. However, within his first year he started experiencing hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and muscle spasms—all symptoms that eventually led to a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in July 2019. Jay was determined 100 percent service-connected disabled in October 2019 and retired on disability in January 2020. Jay is grateful for the medical services he is receiving from the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and the Special Adaptive Housing Grant which is assisting in modifying his home for wheelchair accessibility.
Jay is a proud member of I AM ALS VETERANS which is seeking to improve the standards of care for Veterans with ALS and their family caregivers. Jay currently lives in Rockville with his wife Nancie. They are the proud parents of a son Aidan (age 25) and daughter Brigit (age 22).