Updated Jan. 19 | Bayard Winslow “Chip” Kennett II, a former Capitol Hill staffer whose personal battle with lung cancer helped push Congress to take action , died Saturday. He was 34.
On Jan. 12, Kennett went to the hospital with shortness of breath. He had been scheduled to travel to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to complete the screening process for an experimental treatment. The Kennetts remained optimistic, keeping their friends and family apprised of their progress on Facebook and their blog, Team Kennett .
But on Saturday morning, his wife Sheila posted on Facebook:
“At 4:22 AM, Chip received a brand new body up in heaven that is free of cancer and simply full of everlasting life. The kids and I sure are going to miss him down here on earth with us but, boy, did he teach us all how to live and love. May you enjoy your rest in eternal peace, my darling Chip.”The sad news came just a few days after Roll Call published a story detailing Kennett's struggle and work on the issue.
Kennett worked on Capitol Hill for nearly eight years, starting out as a legislative correspondent working for his home state senator, Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. He later worked as a legislative assistant for Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., then as a military legislative assistant and director of appropriations for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. While working for Gregg, he met Sheila, who later served as director of scheduling and operations for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
In October 2012, Kennett went for a routine eye exam that revealed a suspected melanoma. A positron emission tomography scan and subsequent biopsy diagnosed Kennett, then 31, with Stage IV lung cancer. The disease was incurable. His prognosis: one to two years to live.
But the Kennetts didn’t believe in going without a fight. With the help from their friends and community, Kennett became an advocate for cancer research , testifying on Capitol Hill and helping draw more attention to recalcitrant cancers, such as lung cancer, which need additional funding to develop and bring more treatments to market. He worked with cancer organizations, including LUNGevity, Friends of Cancer Research and the Prevent Cancer Foundation. He encouraged his colleagues on Capitol Hill — both members and staff — to assist in fighting the disease by raising awareness and money. Advocates within the cancer community credit Kennett’s fight with helping spur action.
Kennett surpassed his two-year prognosis last October and celebrated with friends. That same weekend, he led the largest fundraising team for the annual Breathe Deep DC walk. Kennett remained upbeat, friendly and energetic. He still worked full time for Raytheon as a senior manager for government affairs and told CQ Roll Call late last year he found the support from Capitol Hill "lifts him up" on a daily basis.
Kennett was a native of Conway, N.H. and a graduate of Colby College and A. Crosby Kennett High School. He is survived by his wife and two children, Bayard "Joe" Kennett III, 5, and Crosby Reynolds, 2. Parents Bayard and Theresa Kennett of Conway, N.H.; brother and sister-in-law and Tanner and Sarah Kennett of North Conway, N.H.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Thursday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Va. Donations can be made to the Team Kennett Family Trust , LUNGevity Foundation , or the Legacy Mission .
Related: Capitol Hill Helps One of Its Own: Chip Kennett Finds Support in Unexpected Places Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.