When the Widowmaker Found a Tampa Electric Team Member


Ron and wife Jayne at the 2022 American Heart Association’s Tampa Heart Walk.

Ever the resourceful type – driven to lose weight as a kid, a bodybuilder in his twenties – Ron Kennedy decided to pour his own sidewalk at his home in the Wimauma area of southern Hillsborough County. (How many people do you know who do that?) It was Nov. 19, 2009. A warm day. He was 42.

As he worked, Tampa Electric’s superintendent of Generation began to feel fatigued. He sat down. Heat and dehydration, he thought at first; that’s what this is. But things felt wrong on the left side of his body.

A flickering parade of instants after that. Calling his wife. His wife was coming home from an appointment. After talking with her, she called the paramedics. Paramedics who, after they arrived, at first thought the problem was something the hospital could check, just to be safe.

And the ambulance pulling off the road so a helicopter could churn down and fly Ron to Tampa General Hospital before he died.

The Widowmaker had found him. Just like a heart attack had found his mom at age 39.


New at TECO, Ron had befriended an old hand, Larry Chandler (since retired). Larry had experienced a heart attack. In casual conversation, Ron asked what it felt like.

“Like an elephant sitting on your chest,” Larry said.

On his would-be sidewalk in Wimauma, Ron understood. It wasn’t dehydration. It was worse. The way he knew how to understand his symptoms, and share them with his wife, probably saved his life.


The cardiologist at Tampa General told Ron he didn’t just have a heart attack; he’d had a major heart attack – among the worst, with zero blood flow to the left side of the heart. The Widowmaker, his family physician called it.

Fate smiled on Ron.

“I can’t say enough about the paramedics and the TGH staff,” he said. “They ran like a well-oiled machine, best I’ve ever seen.”

Ron has a stent in his heart. He exercises, eats well and doesn’t smoke. His mom’s experience – a heart attack that didn’t kill her at first but that led to increasing disability – remains prominent in his mind.

“I tried to prepare,” he said. “I couldn’t prepare enough.”

But he shares his story with his team members and with his company in blog posts like this. Talking about things like heart attacks is the easiest way to get people to start thinking about themAnd protecting themselves. Even if many people know the misery they can inflict all too well.

What they could’ve done to Ron but didn’t.

The Heart of the Matter

Ron could not finish the sidewalk he started. That’s OK. He’s around to finish the lifesaving process he and his wife started, and that’s what matters. He has something better than a perfect sidewalk; he has a path that always reminds him of what can happen, and what people can do.

“When my company got into the Heart Walk, it really got me energized,” he said.

So, he’ll be walking in Tampa on Nov. 4. (He’s the captain of Team OPM, incidentally, leading a dedicated group of people like him who believe in the power of prevention; you can help their cause with an easy-to-make donation!)

And he’ll always remember the day that changed everything, when he could’ve died right there on the sidewalk without quick thinking, a crucial conversation from the past – and a loved one knowing what to do.