Kevin John Clancy, husband of Kathleen, and father of Susan, David, Karen and Neville, passed away peacefully on Oct. 19, 2023. Great dad, husband, grandfather, professor, author, entrepreneur, CEO, raconteur, sailor, singer . . . these words and many more describe Kevin, or “PapaDoc” as his grandchildren knew him. He lived a long and vibrant life.
Born on March 10, 1942, he grew up on City Island, Bronx, NY. This unique place – the community and household within it – brimmed with personality; with books, music, faith and a strong sense of Irish and American history and patriotism. His immigrant father and family encouraged his ambition. It was a small island, but a strong foundation.
After graduating from Cardinal Hayes High School, Kevin put himself, in part through service in the U.S. Marine Reserves, through City University of New York and then New York University, where he earned his Doctorate in Social Psychology.
Dr. Clancy was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and later at Boston University. After serving as a vice president at BBDO Advertising, he launched Clancy Shulman and Associates, which merged with Yankelovich, Skelly and White to form Yankelovich Clancy Shulman.
Kevin later co-founded Copernicus Marketing Consulting and Research. He authored multiple business bestsellers and in 2008 was inducted into the Marketing Research Hall of Fame. In 2015, for “landmark contributions” and “outstanding leadership,” he received the Charles Coolidge Parlin Marketing Research Award, joining such giants of the field as Arthur Nielsen and George Gallup.
Kevin’s career was marked by considerable flair with the proverbial larger-than-life persona. But his professional philosophy was very much about substance, not flash. His books counseled against “new coats of paint,” “gimmickry” and “jazz.” He advised companies to “address real customer needs with real solutions” and he helped them do so with the use of consumer surveys and careful statistical analysis. This work was endlessly fascinating to him, and he took great and well-deserved pride in its quality and positive impact on companies and their customers.
Kevin lived a full personal life in parallel with his professional one. He enjoyed 25 years of marriage to Kathy and they raised their son Neville in Gloucester, becoming integral members of the community. Kevin had three children, Susan, David and Karen with his first wife Elinor Lentine, raising them in Bedford.
He and his brothers Bill, Tom and Gerald were close from childhood into adulthood, convening often on land and sea. Some of Kevin’s closest friends were those he made when he was just a boy, lifelong friendships that shared many adventures, laughs and life’s milestones.
His mark on all was profound. He was known for entertaining people and also inspiring them; for helping people and for demanding much of them; for singing children to sleep and rousing them at dawn. He was a powerful and unforgettable presence in the lives of all who knew him.
A key trait was generosity. This took many forms. Kevin devoted himself to helping younger relatives, friends and other young adults to chart their course educationally and professionally. In his prime, he took calls from corporate clients at his overflowing desk while at the same time reviewing draft college applications and resumes, sometimes surprising a particularly deserving young person with a job or other assistance they needed to take the next important step. He provided copious pro bono marketing advice to organizations such as the Gloucester Education Foundation, Pathways for Children and Maritime Gloucester.
No tribute to Kevin would be complete without mention of his great love of boats. As an infant and toddler, he lived on a houseboat, and from then on, he was never happier than in a watercraft of any size or style. For him, a boat was not a refuge, but instead something to share: a day on the ocean was a day with family and friends, talking about antics growing up on City Island, sports, politics, books, movies and family history; singing favorite songs; and teaching others how to catch the wind just right and sail swiftly to their destination. With his large crew, he was blessed to spend weekends on his beloved sailboat “Alacrity,” which he named for the “brisk and cheerful readiness” he valued in a boat, and in life. In addition to sailing, Kevin had many interests including antique outboard motors, hydroplanes and model trains.
In recent years, Kevin struggled with Parkinson’s Disease. Despite his many health challenges, he took great delight in following the educational and athletic endeavors of his younger son Neville and his nine grandchildren.
Kevin’s shelves were lined with great books, a source of various memorized orations. A favorite poem was Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Like that poem’s narrator, he indeed took “the path less traveled” – in his case, that rare path in life which succeeds in combining arduous professional achievement with a rich and worthy personal life.
Kevin was predeceased by his father William, his mom Anne (Sullivan) and his older brother William. He leaves his wife Kathleen and their son Neville; his children Susan (Niels Ketelhohn), David (Helen Kim) and Karen (Owen McCormick), and their mother, Elinor C. Clancy. He also leaves his younger brothers Thomas and Gerald; nine granddaughters (Elinor, Caroline and Claire Ketelhohn; Madeleine, Cecilia, Evelyn and Josephine Clancy; and Clover and Hazel McCormick); many nieces and nephews; and countless other relatives and friends, all of whom brightened his final years with their companionship and support.
Very special thanks to Kevin’s long-term caregiver and treasured companion, Jemila McDonald, who became part of the family. Her great compassion, friendship and devotion will never be forgotten. We also extend a special thank you to the staff and volunteers at the Kaplan House who personified loving compassionate care to our family. Kevin will be missed always.
A celebration of Kevin’s life will be held at the Beauport Hotel in Gloucester at noon on Monday, Nov. 13. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Gloucester Education Foundation (thinkthebest.org), the Kaplan House (CareDimensions.org), or the Parkinson’s Foundation (parkinson.org). Arrangements by the Greely Funeral Home, 212 Washington St., Gloucester. For online condolences, please visit www.greelyfuneralhome.com.