Jeff Kennedy is no stranger to hard work.
The U.S. Marine Corps veteran has worked at numerous factory jobs – press operator, driving a tow motor, and more. For a short time, he worked at a cleaners. He rebuilt starters and alternators for a while. For about a year, he worked maintenance at a manufacturing facility. He even worked in a retail setting for a while and was offered a management position, but that didn’t quite suit him.
“I consider myself a blue collar kind of guy,” said Kennedy, a Rodman Public Library bookmobile driver who will retire at the end of 2023. “I like to do my work and then enjoy the rest of my day.”
Kennedy says that he may have been employed by libraries for the past 16 years, but he never felt like what he was asked to do was work.
“It’s hard to call it work when you enjoy it so much,” smiled Kennedy. “I guess you can call it enjoyable work. It’s not back-breaking like some of the jobs that I have had. And my wife always says that I am a people person, so this kind of work has been perfect for me.”
Kennedy studied auto mechanics at Canton Timken High School. However, when he graduated, the job market was bleak, so he set his sights on the military, joining the Marines because he liked the uniform more than the one worn by members of the Air Force.
His aptitude tests placed him in a program where instead of being a grunt, he was selected to be a radio operator. That allowed him to travel the world, spending time in both Europe and Asia during his four-year service from 1976-80.
“I always sort of just fell into the right situations,” said Kennedy as he reflected back on his working life. “I bounced around from job to job when I first left the Marines. I was always looking for a better opportunity and waiting for the right one to come along.”
Even after he fell into a good situation at Collins & Aikman, an automotive supplies manufacturer, he liked the challenge of learning and performing different tasks, so he would “switch it up” every once in a while.
And when a neighbor that worked at the Stark County Library told him about a part-time job driving the bookmobile in 2006, he jumped at that opportunity. After working his shift at the factory from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., he would drive a bookmobile to community stops from 5 to 8 p.m.
Soon after he took that part-time position, Collins & Aikman shut down. Luckily, Stark County Library had a full-time opening for a bookmobile driver at the same time, so Kennedy slid right into that spot.
“Like I said, I always sort of fell into the right situations,” said Kennedy, who eventually joined the staff at Rodman Public Library in August 2021.
Now, after more than 40 years of punching a time clock, the right situation for Kennedy is spending more time with his wife, Barb; his daughters, Brandi and Abby; and his grandchildren, Coleman, Charlotte, Isaac, Nathan, and Tyler.
He says he is sure to spend a good deal of time doing the things he enjoys, such as fishing and hunting with his son-in-law and good friend, Matt. He also plans on spending more time in his garden and canning the bounty that it provides.
“I think the biggest adjustment will be getting out of a routine,” said Kennedy. “And finding other things to do. You can’t always be fishing or in the garden, so I will have to find some other things to keep me busy, and I am sure I will. I am looking forward to having that free time, though. That will be nice.”
Kennedy said he will always look at his time driving bookmobiles, and especially at Rodman Public Library, with fondness.
“It’s been a good job,” he reflected. “It’s been a great job really. I have enjoyed going to the schools and being with the students. I have so many good memories of helping them find books and trying to understand all their stories they would share. That was always so much fun. And I liked being able to help teachers get the books they needed for their lessons.”
Kennedy said he will also miss his RPL co-workers.
“People have been great here,” said Kennedy. “It really is a team thing here, and I have enjoyed working with everybody. Hopefully everybody has enjoyed working with me, too.”