A Hero’s Life and Death

While trying to save a life, Michael Kenwood ’94 gave his own. The former director of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo), a volunteer student organization, died attempting a swift-water rescue during Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28 in Princeton, N.J. He was 39.

Kenwood, a volunteer emergency responder who held a law degree from Boston University and was the proprietor of Kenwood Technical Consulting, was remembered as a dedicated family man during his funeral on Aug. 31 in Paramus, N.J. Along with family and friends, attendees included more than 100 police, fire and emergency service personnel, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Princeton Mayor Chad Goerner.

“Michael is a hero,” former BEMCo co-worker Peter Simon ’94, the president of the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad, said during his eulogy, “not for how he lost his life, but for how he lived it — for how he volunteered to make his community better, for how he served our squad, and for how he loved his family and friends.”

Simon and Kenwood met while volunteering for BEMCo, which Kenwood led as director in 1993 and 1994. They became friends and shared a suite during their junior and senior years. They reconnected many years later when Kenwood moved to central New Jersey.

“Michael was thoughtful, insightful, intelligent and a straightforward guy,” Simon said at the funeral. “No pretenses. No politics. No BS. You could tell when Michael enjoyed something by the smile on his face and the eagerness with which he talked about it. Emergency services was one of the joys of Michael’s life.”

According to The Times of Trenton, Kenwood and another rescue-squad member entered a rapidly rising brook at around
4:35 a.m. on Aug. 28 to check on a submerged vehicle that authorities erroneously believed was occupied.

As they approached the abandoned car, Kenwood and his colleague were called back to land because the current was too strong, the newspaper reported. But Kenwood was swept into the current. He was pulled unconscious farther downstream and then transported to University Medical Center at Princeton, where he died.

A resident of East Windsor, N.J., Kenwood leaves his wife, Elizabeth Frenkel, and a 3-year-old daughter, Laney.