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New Fund Established Honoring Industry Trailblazer Kathleen “Katie” Kennicott

Family and Friends Unite to Celebrate Kennicott’s Legacy

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) has a long history of honoring industry champions through memorial tributes. These tributes allow friends and family to contribute to AFE to forever honor and recognize, in a lasting way, the successes, achievements, and legacy of our fallen friends and family.

In October of 2023, the Katie Kennicott Memorial Tribute was established, honoring Katie’s life. Through months of continued contributions and additional funds from Katie’s loving husband, Harrison “Red” Kennicott, the fund has grown from a tribute fund (under $25,000) to $50,000, which will establish a permanently unrestricted Named Fund within AFE to help support the future of the floral industry. 

“Katie was a longtime friend and loved by so many who not only knew her but were touched by her generosity and caring nature,” says AFE’s Executive Director, Debi Chedester CAE, IOM, AAF. “The overwhelming response of contributions made in her honor shows her impact throughout our industry and beyond.” 

The new Kathleen “Katie” Kennicott Memorial Fund will forever honor Katie’s dedication, love, and commitment to the floral community and her countless friends. Many knew Katie Kennicott best as the sunny, astute, and engaging wife of Red Kennicott of the Chicago-based wholesale distributor Kennicott Brothers Company. Katie played a direct role in the company’s success and elevated the recognition of women leaders within the industry. Over more than 60 years of active involvement in the floral industry, she has shown a unique talent for making strong connections with customers, suppliers, and others—connections that have helped to change the face of the industry. 

She began her career with Kennicott Brothers as a customer relations representative. This was at a time when, as Katie herself related in an interview conducted in the fall of 2018, “There were no women in the wholesale flowers business at all. Zero.” She was truly a pioneer for her time. 

A fast friend to all, she quickly established a rapport with Kennicott Brothers’ retail florist customers, primarily women, visiting their locations and quickly becoming friends. She always followed up each visit with a personal note. She visited prospects as well as customers. Many, even if they did not become customers, became lifelong friends.

Katie used to tell the story of visiting one customer who hadn’t made any purchases from Kennicott Brothers for a while. The customer explained why she was angry: she could not get a 72-cent charge, one that she regarded as erroneous, removed from her bill. The charge had already cost Kennicott’s hundreds of dollars’ worth of business. Katie not only promised to get the charge removed, she took 72 cents out of her purse and handed it to the customer. It took that personal visit and a woman-to-woman talk to resolve the situation.

For over four decades, Katie came along with Red to nearly every Wholesale Florists & Florist Suppliers Association (WF&FSA) and Society of American Florists (SAF) annual convention, strengthening the company’s connection to suppliers as well as to customers and always giving back to the industry. Due in part to Katie’s role and presence, WF&FSA began hosting a panel at its annual convention featuring women leaders, marking a new era for women in the industry.

Together, Katie and Red helped establish and became founding members of AFE’s Legacy Circle, an honorary group of industry members who made provisions for a planned gift to AFE to support the important work of the Endowment. Katie passed away on October 13, 2023, at 86.

On top of her work for Kennicott Brothers and other industry activities, Katie was also a devoted matriarch. Katie was a wife to Red for 64 years, a mom to five kids, a grandmother to 14, and had 11 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Continuing in her footsteps within the industry, her son, Stephen, and granddaughter, Paige, are employed at Kennicott Kuts, the network of flower farms specializing in peonies that began in Illinois in 1836 and today stretches from Chile to Alaska.

Katie’s life touched many other lives. Through this new fund, her legacy will continue impacting the industry she loved so much. 

“I’m extremely grateful to the many individuals who contributed to AFE to honor Katie,” adds Red. “She continues to bring industry friends and family together to support the floral community she loved through this new Fund.”

You can continue to support her memory and impact by donating today to the Kathleen “Katie” Kennicott Memorial Fund. It is inspiring to honor and continue Katie’s trailblazing spirit through this everlasting fund. 

Memorial tributes can be established through AFE with a $1,000 contribution. While they are typically established at the time of passing (to be included in the obituary or service program), they can be established at any time. For more information on establishing a tribute, contact AFE or visit www.endowment.org/industry-tributes.