For the second time in three months, the industry lost one of its finest people; following the sudden death of Steve Stone at the Olympia in September, close friend Kenny Kassel was found dead in his New Jersey home on Wednesday morning. Ironically, there is a photo I took of Kenny, Ruth Silverman, Debbie Kruck and Mandy Blank at the Orleans Hotel bar in Las Vegas after the Mr. Olympia finals; they were toasting to the life of Steve, one of Kenny’s closest friends for 25 years.
I phoned Kenny’s mother, Mimi, this morning and she told me results of the autopsy should be available by this afternoon. I got a call from Nancy DiNino earlier in the evening; official cause of death, according to Mimi, was Congestive Heart Failure.
Police found Kassel, 53, dead in the lobby of his New Jersey home on Wednesday morning, Mrs. Kassel said. “I really think Kenny died sometime Monday,” said Mimi. “I called him at 9 am California time (Mimi was visiting at Kenny’s Palm Springs condo), noon New Jersey time on Monday; we talked everyday, going over the mail, business dealings, etc.
“He told me to call him a bit later than the usual time on Tuesday, because a friend was coming in and they were going out to lunch. I called him several times on Tuesday-at home, on his cell, at the office-and he didn’t answer. I knew then something terrible had happened.
“I kept calling until about midnight; I got up at 6 am on Wednesday and called the local hospital; they told me what direction to follow. I then called the local police and told them to go over to the house and break in, they had my permission; they found him lying on the floor, fully dressed, near the front door.
“He had been eating; there was some food dropped on the kitchen floor and it was left in disarray; I’m not sure why he was near the front door-perhaps he was going outside for some fresh air, I don’t know.” Mimi said she was extremely thankful for all of the people who had contacted her and expressing their condolences.
The funeral will be held on Sunday, Dec 28, at Temple Beth El in Closer, NJ. After taking Kenny’s body to the cemetery in Paramus, a large group will head back to Temple Beth El for lunch (Mimi said she expects about 150 people). “People who want to come by the house to pay their respects can do so on Sunday from 4-7 pm, and on Monday and Tuesday from 1-5 pm and 7-9 pm,” she said. The home is located at 42 Palisades Ave, Cresskill, NJ, 07626.