KENNEBUNK, Maine — Kennebunk mother Sandi Tucker Kennedy, described as patient and kind with a contagious smile and laugh, died Monday from a rare disease.
Kennedy, a 38-year-old mother of four, lost her battle with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a prion disease that is part of a family of rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that take over the neurological system.
“She was a devoted mother, wife and friend who enjoyed spending time with her family, long days at the beach and traveling. No destination was ever too far for her to travel for a visit. She made friends everywhere she went, always leaving a lasting impression and the sound of laughter in her path. Sandi had the biggest heart and was always willing to lend a helping hand wherever needed,” Kennedy’s obituary states. “Sandi’s memories will live on with us every time we go to the beach and hear the sound of the waves crashing. If we are ever hesitant to tackle some new adventure in fear of how difficult it may be on us, think of Sandi, as she knew no such reservation. She had an infectious laugh that you could feel with every inch of your soul.”
The prion disease affects just one in a million people, and judging from the outpouring of support Kennedy and her family have received since the diagnosis from the local community and beyond, she was herself one in a million.
The community had rallied around Kennedy and her family after she was diagnosed with the disease in February, holding community fundraisers and prayer gatherings, and contributing to an online fundraising page created to support the family with medical expenses.
“As a family we are overwhelmed and so appreciative of all the support from the community, and you have our eternal gratitude,” said Kennedy’s sister-in-law, Denise Tucker.
An update posted Tuesday on the online fundraising page www.youcaring.com, which has raised more than $75,000 for the family since its creation in early February, says, “Our hearts are very heavy, but with the love and support from all of you, we find strength through our tears. Sandi has passed away and although our sorrow is overwhelming for a life taken too soon, we find comfort knowing she will live on through those she loved so dearly. Your continued prayers, support and love for the Kennedy and Tucker family has been truly heartwarming and amazing.”
Kennedy — who leaves behind her four children, ages 2-9, and her husband, Jake, a builder — was described by those who knew her best as someone who lived life to the fullest.
“I’ve never met anybody in my life who lived life every day to the fullest like Sandi did. She brought her kids with her everywhere; she made sure they experienced life every minute,” Tucker said in early February. She called Kennedy “the most caring mom and wife I have ever met in my life.”
Jackie Danahy Foisy of Kennebunk said she has known Kennedy since their sons started preschool together. From day one, Foisy said her son was “fascinated by the twins,” while she was “in awe of the kindness and seemingly endless patience and love” Kennedy showed her sons.
“She would drop off the boys so sad to leave their mom almost daily. Yet she never lost her cool and only showed them the most strong and loving mom ever,” Foisy said. “Just last month my son, who knows nothing of their circumstance, said to me, ‘Mom, you know who is so lucky?’ I said ‘who?’ ‘Asher and Gunner, because everywhere they go they always have their brother and best friend.’ I hope those sweet kids always feel deep in their hearts the boundless love of their mom.”
Friend Sarah Nunan previously described Kennedy as “the strongest person I know, greatest mother, wife and daughter.”
Nunan said Kennedy always had a smile on her face and laughter in her voice, and it was “contagious.”
Tucker, who called Kennedy her “hero,” said “she has given new meaning to ‘it takes a village.’ She is the village.”
Kennedy, who worked as a nurse at Maine Medical Center, was not only an active mother, but an active member of the Kennebunk community who created the “KBK Moms” Facebook page, which now has more than 1,000 members and is a source of information and support for local parents.
“I know that Sandi leaves a legacy in her husband, children and family, and this Facebook page will also be a small part of her legacy,” said Sarah Canning, a member of KBK Moms. “I did not know Sandi, but her story touched me. Like her, I am a mom, I am a nurse, I live in this small town. Her creation of the KBK Moms group Facebook page has allowed me to feel more connected to the people in this town, and part of a group that is larger than my own circle of friends and family. I go to it daily for laughter, for tears, for information, for answers. Sometimes I go just to connect.”