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Lives Lived: Dedicated to his community

With a lengthy career in various levels of education, Peter Hennessy was also known for his community efforts over a number of causes, from preserving history to prison and education reform.

[Peter Hennessy]
Peter Hennessy (Photo courtesy Whig-Standard)

After graduating from Campbellford High School in 1944, Hennessy went on to study History and Political Economy at Queen’s University. In 1948 he graduated with honours and went on to attend the Ontario College of Education (1948-49).

He would then teach history at Petrolia District High School (1949-53) and the Port Arthur Collegiate Institute (1953-63) in Thunder Bay, eventually becoming principal (1962-68).

In 1958-59, he and his family lived in England where he completed the requirements for the Diploma in Education at the Institute of Education, University of London.

In 1968, he was one of the original appointments to the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University until his retirement in 1984.

He was a founding member of the Faculty Flyers, a group from the Faculty of Education that began playing poker at monthly get-togethers in the late 1970s and continues to meet. He was the self-appointed historian of the group and would often entertain with his favourite and original limericks.

Hennessy was an avid writer and author with a number of titles to his credit, including: Schools in Jeopardy, Collective Bargaining in Education (1979); The Hennessys of the Bay of Quinte, (1991); Canada’s Big House, the Dark History of the Kingston Penitentiary, (1999); Brother Bill and the Vets, (2001); From Student to Citizen, (2006) (re-titled Democracy in Peril), and a memoir, Escaping North Hastings, (2010).

He also was a regular columnist for the Kingston Whig-Standard (1987-98) on themes of public education and prison reform, and continued to submit op-eds, with the last one published in 2014.

Among Hennessy’s many interests was the history of trains in eastern Ontario.  He seemed to know every old line, the rail beds they travelled on, and the old stations scattered throughout the area.

He also could often be seen on walks with Brandy, his constant companion, a yellow Lab mix, along the shores of Lake Ontario, at Cataraqui Conservation area or the trails north of Kingston.

Hennessy was a long-time volunteer for the John Howard Society and served on the Citizens Advisory Committee at the Kingston Penitentiary, for which he was honoured with the 125th Anniversary of Confederation Medal in 1993.

In his work with the Citizens Advisory Committee, Hennessy was known for meeting with inmates and staff while always trying to find ways to make the prison better either side of the intitution’s walls. Through his meetings with inmates he gained a better understanding of their concerns.

A memorial service is planned for April 3.

– With files from retired Professor Don Campbell.