The son of a former Hampton mayor and dedicated worker for Hopewell has died.

Ross A. Kearney III, the city clerk of Hopewell, died Monday at home at his desk, work scattered before him and a list of things to do for Hopewell nearby. He was 49.

Mr. Kearney’s father, Ross A. Kearney II, is a former mayor of Hampton and said Tuesday that the family was coming to terms with the loss of Mr. Kearney.

“We’re still in shock here,” Kearney said.

Mr. Kearney had a reputation for being a dedicated public worker. He worked in Petersburg at the circuit court and then in Hampton as a spokesman for the area’s transit system. At the time of Mr. Kearney’s death, he was working for the city of Hopewell, where he was known for working on weekends.

“Those (jobs) kind of defined what Ross was like,” Kearney said of his son. “He liked working behind the scenes and working with the public.”

Hopewell Mayor Jackie Shornak worked closely with Mr. Kearney, who prepared the agenda for the City Council, organized information packets for the meetings, and kept the minutes.

“He really knew about local government. He’s going to be missed tremendously by his work ethic and personality,” Shornak said.

The city offices of Hopewell have been quiet this week. A council meeting planned for Tuesday night was canceled out of respect for Mr. Kearney.

“It hit everybody pretty hard,” Shornak said. “When it’s unexpected, it’s harder to absorb.”

Shornak said that despite having a leg amputated, Mr. Kearney, who suffered complications from diabetes, wanted to come back to work before his doctor wanted to release him.

During their last conversation, Mr. Kearney expressed excitement about what he’d be able to do once he got a prosthetic leg, Shornak said.

“He was a person that never gave up,” Shornak said. “It wasn’t going to stop him from doing his job. He did not see it as a handicap. He wanted to make sure that he did his job.”

Outside of work, Mr. Kearney was a lifelong sports fan. He played different sports growing up and was a co-captain for his beloved Phoebus High School football team. Mr. Kearney loved Notre Dame and the Washington Redskins.

“He was very crazy about sports,” Kearney said.

Mr. Kearney was a family man who showered affection on his nieces.

He is survived by his parents, Kearney and Trudy D. Kearney; sister Erin K. Lazar and her husband, Shawn Lazar; brother Heath Kearney and his wife, Kristina Kearney; and nieces Madison, Megan and Morgan Kearney and Olivia and Abby Lazar.

A service is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Joseph Church in Hampton.

Story by Matt Thompson
mthompson@timesdispatch.com

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