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how to thrive at 95


by John Arlon Hawke

RASHIE KENNEDY BEGAN A WRITING CAREER AT AGE 90, and embraced Internet technology to create a website that features more than 20 of his articles. Check it out for yourself at

The 95-year-old Free Will Baptist minister could be the poster child for what it means to live 30 years past retirement age and still find positive ways to influence the community for Christ. He’s the final authority on how older adults can avoid becoming grumps. Perhaps that’s why he wrote, “How to Grow Old and Still Be Happy.”

He’s bursting with optimism, full of confidence in God’s faithfulness, and absolutely sure that he’s doing God’s will. Rashie arises every morning at Autumn Care facility in Beulaville, North Carolina, determined to touch the world with God’s love.

Prayer Beginnings

He started life big (13 ½ pounds) in 1911, one of seven children in the home of a praying North Carolina preacher whose wife gave the boy a hard-to-pronounce first name (pronounced Ray-She).

“Mother and Daddy prayed with us four times a day on our knees,” Rashie says. “I heard Daddy pray for me more than 30,000 times.”

Rashie and Myrtie Kennedy established their home on the family altar after their 1931 marriage. The three Kennedy children heard Mom and Dad pray every day, and saw the results of a home that was the community prayer center.

Model-A Marriage

Rashie’s preacher father farmed all week and pastored four churches on weekends, traveling to a different church each Sunday. Rashie, disenchanted with farming, began selling W.T. Raleigh Products. He saved his money and purchased a 225-acre tract from a lumber company where he built a house.

He wooed and wed his high school girlfriend, Myrtie Mercer. Their wedding took place in a Model-A Ford with the officiating minister standing on Rashie’s side of the car while his wife stood on Myrtie’s side to witness the occasion. The Model-A marriage lasted 63 years. Two years after Myrtie died (1994), Rashie married Kathleen Hansley, a widow whose husband died in 1994.

Farm Boy Goes to College

Converted at age 11, Rashie grew to manhood searching for his niche in life, and found it when God called him to preach. In September 1942 at age 31, with a wife and two children, he sold his North Carolina home, and moved the family altar to Tennessee where he enrolled in the first class at Free Will Baptist Bible College. He was three years older than the college president.

While a student at FWBBC, he organized Sylvan Park FWB Church in West Nashville. “It was a family effort,” Rashie said. “Our children gave out the message in the neighborhood and invited their friends to attend.”

Denomination-Wide Influence

After graduating in 1945, Rashie followed God’s leadership taking his family altar to new places. He would eventually pastor from North Carolina to Texas with a final pastorate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

His passion for prayer and evangelism caught the eye of Free Will Baptist leaders. Rashie’s diverse 66-year ministry includes eight years on the Foreign (International) Missions Board and six years on the Home Missions Board. While in Texas, he served two years as executive secretary and two years on the Oklahoma Bible College (now Hillsdale FWB College) Board.

Alive at 95

Last spring, Rashie preached the 60th anniversary sermon at Sylvan Park FWB Church. He returned at age 94 preaching the same message of salvation by grace and the importance of family altars that he did at age 34.

He told the congregation, “If you fathers don’t pray with your children, you ought to be put in jail until you do.” He said it like he meant it.

Rashie Kennedy does not act like a 95-year-old man, and he certainly does not sound like one with his thundering voice of velvet and fire.  He’s different. He’s God’s faithful steward climbing the last hill.

John Arlon Hawke, former pastor and educator for 20 years, now does free-lance writing from his Middle Tennessee home. His articles appear occasionally in ONE Magazine.







©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists