PITTSBURG — When Wayne Kennedy of Branson, Missouri passed away on April 12 at 82 it was a loss — not only for his wife Bette, his brother Edwin, and his three children and six grandchildren — but for students at Southeast Elementary School in Weir, who knew Kennedy as the “New Shoe Man.”
For five years, the Kennedys would come to Weir at the beginning of the school year.
“They would come up one day, usually in September,” said Southeast Elementary Principal Tammie Hall.
Students would give Kennedy their shoe size, and Kennedy would give each student a new pair of shoes.
“They were very nice shoes,” Hall said.
Although the Kennedys weren’t able to make it to Weir to distribute shoes this school year because of Wayne’s failing health, Hall recalls that one year, Kennedy even bought shoes for the school faculty.
“The reason he did it is because he went to school in Weir,” Hall said. “That was his old stomping ground when he was younger.”
Wayne’s wife Bette also attended Helmic School just east of Weir.
So far, no one has stepped in to fill the void of providing free shoes to Weir school children — a charitable contribution that was perhaps unique to the five years that Kennedy decided to give so much back to the community he came from.
“‘Whatever you could do for someone else, you should do,’ that was his message,” Hall said. Even though he was not able to give out new shoes to students this past school year, he will “absolutely” be missed in the community, she added.
“We were blessed more than we thought we were ever going to be,” Hall said.