Irish American News Column October 2015

Kevin Kennelly with his Mt. Carmel Caravan baseball teammates.
Kevin Kennelly with his Mt. Carmel Caravan baseball teammates.




Mike Houlihan

It’s been almost 20 years since I started writing this column back in 1996. I’ve spewed a lot of blarney in this paper since then and loved every minute of it. But the other day I realized I finally have something of which to be very proud. Like many of the great moments in my life it goes back through my Irish heritage and my formative years at Mt. Carmel HS.

Back in September of 2011 I wrote a column about a young man, Kevin Kennelly Jr., who was killed in a 4th of July tragedy on the beach in Indiana. That column is still available online if you’re interested in doing a bit of detective work. Space won’t permit reprinting it here so please do have a look.

In a nutshell, Kevin’s parents asked me to write about their beloved 17-year-old son to help refute the false and nasty reportage of the incidents that led to his death. It was my great pleasure to call out two of my least favorite publications, the New York Times and Irish Central, neither of which I would ever dignify with the wiping of my fat Irish arse.

But those odious journals were powerful and nobody was standing up to their scandalous smears of this outstanding young man. So I took a shot at it with my own perspective and combined it with a statement by Kevin’s father about the circumstances of his death.

The repercussions of my column surprised me. I heard stories through back channels of the outrage of scoundrels at my column in the little ol’ Irish American News. Of course that made me happy, nothing I love more than pissing off phonies who would never dare to confront me.

Kevin Sr. and his wife Jean’s Irish roots run deep. Kevin is a 40-year member of Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 59 and the grandson of Ellis Island immigrants from Kerry and Clare. Jean is a descendant of Famine immigrants. Her mother was a Dunne and her family donated the land that Old St. Pat’s sits on. Her great uncle was the first pastor of that parish, Father Edward Dunne. Another great uncle was legendary newspaper columnist Finley Peter Dunne. According to his dad, Kevin Jr. loved the work of Finley Peter Dunne.

I was honored the other day when Kevin and Jean Kennelly graciously invited me to a ceremony at Mt. Carmel where they insured that Kevin Jr.’s legacy would live on. So once again here is a statement of Kevin Kennelly Sr. from that ceremony in late September of 2015.

We are here today on behalf of our family and most importantly, our son, Kevin Francis Kennelly.                    

On July 4, 2011, James Malecek killed our son with a single undeserving punch, after Kevin attempted to intercede in an ensuing altercation between Malecek and another teenage boy in Long Beach, IN.  

We filed this civil lawsuit back in 2012 for the sole purpose of vindicating and exonerating our son. Since the time of Kevin’s death, James Malecek continuously denied fault, instead claiming that he was acting in self-defense, blaming Kevin for the conflict which ensued that night on the beach. Today, after 4 years of litigation, James Malecek has finally retracted his claims of self-defense and admitted responsibility for our son’s death.

We turned to the civil justice system only after we felt that the criminal system failed us and more importantly, failed our son. We recently received the proceeds of a million dollar settlement in our civil case. Our legal battle was never about money. A civil case was our only means of countering 4 years of blaming the victim strategies, after Jake Malecek pled guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter, to avoid a trial, in the criminal case. After reading all of the testimony elicited through this litigation, it seems that the events of that night occurred exactly as detailed in Mike Houlihan’s article in the September 2011 edition of the Irish American News.

We have decided to donate the proceeds to several institutions that were so important to Kevin and have been supportive of us since the day he was killed. Most of the money will go to Kevin’s beloved Mount Carmel high school, in the form of a $500,000 check we are delivering today. It will be used for renovations and additions to the campus, especially the main building behind us. It was built in 1924 and for 91 years young men have learned honor, respect and decency behind its doors.

We are also donating smaller amounts to a scholarship that was started in Kevin’s name and to St Barnabas School, Sacred Heart Shrine Church and St Rita High School, another fine institution, which Mr. O’Connor and many of Kevin’s friends attended.

We would like to thank our attorneys, Bryan O’Connor and Eileen O’Connor for their unwavering support, courage and commitment to us and our son. They believed in our fight to preserve Kevin’s good name and reputation and fought our battle with heartfelt empathy.

We continue to live each day with the loss of our son heavy on our hearts. We are forever grateful for the support our friends, family, and the Catholic Church have shown our family. We pray that closure of our legal battle will in some way help us heal.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.