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Jeff Manning
The Oregonian/OregonLive

David Kennedy, co-founder of famed independent advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, died Oct. 10. He was 82.

Though he left the firm that bore his name in 1995, he continued to work on causes important to him until his death. He passed away just hours before the launch of an important, high-stakes ad campaign that he had helped develop for the American Indian College Fund.

“It’s a huge loss for us, not only because of his commitment to the fund but also because he convinced others to commit,” said Cheryl Crazy Bull, CEO and president of the non-profit. “As a result, really thousands of Native American kids got to go to college.”

Kennedy was born May 31, 1939, in Kansas, the son and grandson of wildcat oil drillers. He grew up in the oil fields of Oklahoma, Colorado, and every other state along the eastern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. At 13, his first job was as an apprentice welder, a craft that was to become a lifelong passion.

He got a fine arts degree in printmaking and metal sculpture from the University of Colorado. He continued to weld sculptures and make prints at his Estacada farm until his death.

Kennedy married his wife Kathleen in 1963. They had five children.

He got into the advertising business, working for big-name agencies like Young & Rubicam and Leo Burnett. He moved to Portland in 1979 and joined forces with Dan Wieden three years later.

The agency grew to become one of the industry’s giants. It produced brilliant spots for Nike and other big-league clients.

Kennedy left the agency in 1995.

For all his success and wealth, Kennedy remained low-key and fun-loving. He walked into a fundraiser for the American Indian College Fund at a fancy New York hotel in jeans and a Levis jacket with holes at the elbows, recalls Rick Williams, the fund’s CEO before Crazy Bull. A hotel manager assumed Kennedy was a janitor and told him to get to work.

“He just laughed,” Williams said. “He had no ego, none whatsoever. "

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Kathleen, and children Cathlin, Brendan, Erinn and Siobhan. His son Ian died earlier.

The family has asked that gifts be made to the American Indian College Fund.

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