Edward L. Hennessy, Jr. Donates $1 Million to HELP
Growing up during the Great Depression, Edward L. Hennessy, Jr. recalls walking the streets of Boston with his dad and seeing Help Wanted signs in storefront windows that sent a clear message to his tribe: Irish Catholics Need Not Apply.
Instead of letting the sentiments of the day deter him, he vowed to work extra hard to succeed - and that he did.
In high school, he had not one, but two paper routes, in the morning and evening, earning him $1 a week. Applying the same work ethic, he rose through the ranks of corporate America swiftly. At the height of his career, he served as chairman and CEO of AlliedSignal, the Morristown-based aerospace, automotive and engineering company.
Now retired, Mr. Hennessy, 90, has shifted his focus from boardrooms to philanthropy.
His $1 million gift to the Hospital Elder Life Program at Morristown Medical Center will assist elderly patients ward off delirium and confusion and honors his late wife, Ruth, who experienced these symptoms while hospitalized in Florida.
“She was confused and had trouble walking,” he says. “I wanted to invest in a program that helps others who are going through what Ruth did.”
Married for 64 years, the couple enjoyed a life filled with travel, living abroad in Belgium and England. Their circle included dignitaries and politicians, such as fellow Bostonian John F. Kennedy. “My wife joked that we both had that same horrible Boston accent,” he says. When their friend, President Richard Nixon, traveled to China, Mr. Hennessy lent him the company plane. “I told him to pay for the gas,” he recalls. And at a Vatican dinner, Mr. Hennessy had the honor of being seated next to Pope John Paul. That night, he remembers thinking: If my parents could see me now.
Today Mr. Hennessy splits his time between New Vernon and Palm Beach and enjoys gardens, golf and his philanthropic work. His recent gift is a fitting tribute to his beloved wife. “I wanted to give something back,” he says. “And who knows, I may need it someday.”