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Citizen Spotlight: T.R. Kennedy

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T.R. in his element (photo S Jason Cole).

If you go into the Hall of Waters late at night you may see a figure slipping between the shadows. But don’t be alarmed, it’s probably just long-time Building Supervisor T.R. Kennedy! T.R.’s dedication to the upkeep and preservation of Excelsior Springs’ most treasured architectural gem is unmatched. For more than a decade T.R. has been the steward of the Hall of Waters and when he’s not working to keep it together, he loves to dissect the rich history of the Hall. The walls of his office are covered with a pictorial history of the Hall and spread on his desk are articles and photographs about the individuals that helped to build the 1936 structure.

 T.R.’s curiosity is only matched by his generous spirit. Before working for the City of Excelsior Springs, he spent a few years doing mission work in Kentucky. “I was one of three guys that could walk into any prison, state or federal, in the state of Kentucky. Just show my credentials and walk through the front gate,” he touted. In Kentucky, he worked for a program called Returning Hearts and he helped rehabilitate prisoners working to return to society after being in prison. About 18 months before prisoners were released T.R. would go through a program with them, teaching them how to pay bills, how to find a job, and reconnecting them with their families. But as anyone who’s worked in that kind of environment knows, for every win you help achieve you witness many losses. T.R. made the decision to move back to his roots and reconnect with his own family.

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T.R. Gives a family from Texas an impromptu tour of the Hall of Waters during our interview (photo S Jason Cole).

When T.R. first started working at the Hall of Waters he says, “this place was being used like a storage unit. There was stuff everywhere; bicycles around the swimming pool, closets had all kinds of miscellaneous stuff in them, it was just a mess.” He went room by room, slowly sorting trash from historic treasure, a slow but rewarding process. Now T.R. often stops to excitedly share the history of the Hall with curious visitors. During our interview, a family from Texas wandered down and pressed their faces against the glass doors looking down into the old pool. Without missing a beat, T.R. jumped in told them all about the glory days, and the sad demise of the pool. He paused for a moment and said to them, “Wanna see something really cool? Come with me!” As he led them down the stairs he told them the story of the polio pool that was built especially for U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The family listened intently and when T.R. finished his story they thanked him profusely. “This was really special,” said the father, “I’m so glad we got to meet you.” 

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Have you met the Lady in Red? (photo Courtney Cole).

Over the years of getting to know the building, T.R. has discovered something else, a passion for exploring the supernatural. The level of detail and his enthusiasm when T.R. is telling one of his ghost stories could convince anyone to believe. He says his first encounter with a spirit was with the ghost who he calls, “the lady in red.” It was about 6 or 7 years ago, at around 4 o’clock in the morning, he said he was buffing the floors in the Hall of Springs near the east side of the water bar. “I suddenly felt uneasy, like someone was watching me. So I slowly looked around and up in the balcony was a lady dressed in a red ball gown, with hair down to here,” he said gesturing to his shoulder. T.R. says he told the woman she wasn’t allowed to be in the building, but she seemed to ignore him and walked across the balcony and around the corner. He walked into the foyer and waited for the woman to come down the steps, but she never did. T.R. walked up and made a loop around the second floor but couldn’t find anyone. “I walked right out and went home, and I told my wife I wasn’t going back until the sun was up and there were actual people in the building,” he laughed. 

With his friends from local paranormal groups T.R. has worked to uncover even more spooky specters and ghosts, while also serving the greater good. His work researching the paranormal is also helping to raise money for projects in the Hall of Waters. T.R. and his friends have begun offering paranormal tours for groups and some tourists and he has set up a “Ghost Central” with infrared cameras and other equipment straight out of Ghostbusters. T.R. says he puts 100% of the proceeds from the tours back into helping to preserve the Hall. “We usually pick one project a year, around $4,000,” says T.R., “last year the [paranormal] tours paid for the new carpet in the City Council Chamber, and the year before that we got new tile in the elevator,” he said with a satisfied smile.

Although he didn’t mention it, T.R. has also worked with other volunteers to help create some of the history displays and the mini-museum within the Hall. He has lots of ideas for renovations he’d like to see completed, including creating an event space in the old pool area but he says the number one project would be to bring the waters back to the Hall because he feels that would bring in the tourists. “I enjoy the building so much, I always find something new and exciting about it. It’s a one-of-a-kind building and we’d never be able to replace it if it gets destroyed, so come down and enjoy it and enjoy the history of it,” he said.

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