May 26, 1975 12:00 PM

We got both bombshells within a few days of each other,” recalls 40-year-old Bev Kennedy. Her husband of 13 years, popular Chicago TV talk show host Bob Kennedy, was chosen in August 1974 to co-host ABC’s new AM America show. It was the kind of career breakthrough that local TV personalities dream of. A few days later the Kennedys discovered that Bob, 41, was suffering from bone cancer. On November 6, two months before AM America’s launch date, Bob died. “He knew he wouldn’t be well enough to do the show,” says Bev angrily, her fists clenched. “But damn it, we didn’t know he was going to die. I didn’t even think it until the moment they told me he was dead.”

Nothing prepared Bev, left with two daughters—Elizabeth, 11, and Suzanne, 9—for widowhood. She could not even bring herself to read the best-selling autobiography of the day, Widow. Ironically, its author, Lynn Caine, was one of Bob’s last guests on his morning show, Kennedy & Co. But nine days after her husband’s funeral, Bev, who had produced Bob’s Albany, N.Y. show 14 years before, walked into the Chicago ABC offices and asked for a job—her first in a decade. By January she was producer of the show that replaced Bob’s night show. “We looked around,” says program director Chris Duffy, “but we had to conclude she was the best.” This meant sitting right across from her husband’s old office. “I had to walk down the corridor,” shrugs Bev, “face the ghost and begin to live with it all.”

Up each day before 7 a.m. at her home in suburban Highland Park, Bev packs lunches for herself and her children, then catches the 7:55 commuter train to Chicago. The girls help out with the chores, and a cleaning lady comes in one day every two weeks. Coworkers call her “the adrenalin high,” as the tiny (4’11”) raven-haired Bev darts about the black patent leather and neon set she created for the new show, Graffiti, conferring with writers, guests, set and lighting directors and host John Coleman. He is a longtime friend who replaced Bob Kennedy when he fell ill. “It still is difficult every so often because Bob’s death hit us all hard,” concedes Coleman. “But Bev is expected to be a pro—and she is.”

Her major worry, however, is not the job, but what effect their father’s death will have on the children. One recent night, Suzie sat on Bev’s bed and wept. “That’s good,” insists Bev. “She remembered that Daddy called her his ‘snugglebunny,’ and I want her to remember things like that.” Will Bev remarry? “Bob’s going to be a hard act to follow,” she says. “But I had a sensational first marriage. If I’m very lucky, I’ll have a sensational second one.”

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