LOS ANGELES — Friends, family members and numerous industry colleagues remembered Drew Kennedy as a “gentle soul” with a “heart of gold” at a moving memorial service Friday.
The “Celebration of Life” for the popular president of Premiere Sales Group packed the auditorium at Mission Church in Ventura Calif., where Kennedy resided before passing away on March 27 at the age of 32.
Some came to the service wearing black t-shirts with the words “Rest in Peace” on the front and a picture of Kennedy on the back. His brand new, black Z28 Camaro was parked in front of the church with the trunk open, revealing a custom sound system he had recently installed.
As guests made their way inside they walked past Kennedy’s giant MVP trophy from his senior year at Palmdale High School, where he was the star of the baseball team with the second highest batting average in the state of California. Next to the trophy there was a stack of paper and pens with a message from Kennedy’s family, inviting everyone to “share your thoughts with Drew by writing him a note.”
“You can leave the note in the basket with Drew as he leaves here today,” the message read.
The song “Tears in Heaven” played softly in the room.
A native of Palmdale, Calif., who was in his 15th year in adult entertainment, Kennedy took charge of the Santa Clarita-based Premiere in 2013. It was a remarkable ascent to ownership for the charismatic sales pro that started his career in Premiere’s warehouse at the age of 18. His hustle and work ethic eventually led to him acquiring the company from his brother-in-law Keith Repult and older sister Samantha, the then-owners of the high-profile distributor.
Repult, standing on the stage in front of Kennedy’s casket as video screens showed personal photos from his life, recalled he met Drew for the first time when he was only 14 because he had asked his sister on a date.
“He was my brother, my friend and my business partner,” Repult began.
He said the second time he met Kennedy was while he was on house arrest, so he asked Kennedy to back up his car in one of the first times he had ever gotten behind the wheel. Then he recalled being invited to one of Kennedy’s baseball games, where he told the young ballplayer that he’d give him $100 for every home run he hit.
“I didn’t know he was the MVP of the team,” Repult said with a laugh, adding he ended up owing Drew $500.
Repult talked about the first car Kennedy drove after getting his driver’s license — an old Subaru they called the “Drewburu”; and his first sports car, a red Mitsubishi with a spoiler on the back.
“We called it ‘The Slow & The Curious,’ because it was only four cylinders,” Repult cracked.
Through the years, they played countless poker games, tennis and shot pool, Repult added. He said Drew was like an uncle to his three kids, “showering them with gifts.”
It was a theme repeated about Kennedy with all the speakers, that he was “generous” and “kind” to a fault.
“I miss my little buddy, my brother, my best friend,” Repult said, fighting back tears. “Rest in peace.”
TD Oakes, the choir pastor of Mission Church and a close friend of Kennedy’s, opened the service with a touching song called “Come as You Are,” singing and playing guitar while another choir member played drums. After the performance, Mission Church’s Jim Sheldon remarked, “I don’t even know how he got through that song.”
Mike Hickerson, the lead pastor at Mission, told the crowd Kennedy’s family would want everyone to know, “His heart was huge. He would do anything for anyone at any time.”
Kennedy’s father Mike and mother Jan took the stage for emotional remembrances.
“My whole life was based around him,” Mike said, adding they were fishing buddies right up until the end. “I loved that boy more than life itself.”
TD returned to the stage with his own personal tribute, saying, "Drew was such a big guy, but the biggest thing about him was his heart.”
Then he sang “Amazing Grace” as the audience stood and sang with him. The service came to a tearful end with a photomontage of Kennedy playing on the video screens, scored to “The Joker” by The Steve Miller Band. Kennedy was a notorious prankster.
When it was over, guests gathered outside around Kennedy’s car, where they were asked to release red and blue balloons into the sky in his memory.
“This is a symbol for Drew, because he’s free now,” said his sister Samantha.