Remembering Chip Kennettby Senator Kelly Ayotte
Posted on 2015-01-30
AYOTTE. Madam President, I wish to recognize the extraordinary
life of my friend Chip Kennett, who passed away on January 17 after a
courageous 2-year battle against cancer.
Bayard Winslow ``Chip'' Kennett II was born and raised in Conway, and he was a proud New Hampshire native son. The Kennetts are pillars of the Conway community whose roots in the Mount Washington Valley go back generations, and I have been fortunate to know Chip's family and to witness their countless contributions to business and civic life in New Hampshire.
Chip carried on his family's tradition of public service when he first came to Capitol Hill to serve his home State of New Hampshire. He served as a congressional staffer for nearly 8 years--first as a legislative correspondent to my predecessor Senator Judd Gregg and later as a policy aide for former Senator John E. Sununu. More recently, he was a senior aide to my colleague from Maine, Senator Susan Collins. When I first came to the Senate in 2011 and did not yet have a full legislative staff in place, Chip generously offered his counsel on national security and defense issues, for which I was very grateful.
While working for Senator Gregg, Chip met the love of his life, Sheila, who would become his wife.
In October 2012, Chip--seemingly healthy and active at the age of 31--was diagnosed with Stage IV nonsmoker's lung cancer. There was no cure. In the face of an unimaginable prognosis, Chip understood better than most that life is a gift, and he inspired us all with his determination to live his life to the fullest--making the most of the time he had with his wife Sheila and their two young children, Joe and Crosby. Together, they found joy and meaning in simply being together during everyday, ordinary moments--resolving to be ``present and grateful.'' From family dinners to rooting for his favorite football team on ``Patriots Football Sunday'', Chip savored the blessings of family and friendship.
True to his compassionate nature, he turned his diagnosis into a cause for good--becoming a counselor to others battling cancer, raising public awareness of the disease and the need to reduce the stigma associated with lung cancer. The blog that Chip and Sheila started provided a ``Playbook for Living'' that served as a source of inspiration and encouragement to others who were fighting similar battles with cancer. Chip also put his Capitol Hill experience to work as an advocate for lung cancer research, and his efforts are credited with helping spur changes in Medicare coverage for lung cancer treatments--a legacy that will continue to touch many lives.
Chip summed up his approach to living with cancer at a hearing last May before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, where he testified that ``thanks to medical breakthroughs, I have been able to experience many quality filled days. We have enjoyed spending holidays with friends and family. I have been able to continue working full time. As a family, we have sat down at the dinner table together, have attended innumerable swim lessons, soccer and tee ball practices for my son on Saturday mornings, and have sat in a church pew together on Sunday mornings. In other words, we have stayed busy--busy LIVING with cancer.'' Chip's strong network of family and close friends was extremely important to him. He was always happiest being around the people he loved. After his diagnosis, his family, friends, coworkers, and former Hill colleagues--affectionately known as Team Kennett--mobilized to not only support Chip and his family but also to support their efforts to aid others fighting cancer.
The courage and strength with which Chip and his family faced his illness is an inspiration to us all. Perhaps Chip's greatest legacy is the valuable lesson he taught us all about how to live fully in each moment.
Chip was a wonderful, smart, and fun-loving man, and he had a big heart. It was a joy to know him and to call him a friend, and his loss is simply heartbreaking.
My heart and thoughts are with all of Team Kennett, including Sheila, Joe, and Crosby; as well as Chip's parents Bayard and Theresa Kennett of Conway; and his brother and sister-in-law Tanner and Sarah Kennett of North Conway.