By Jill Ralph. Raymond f. kennedy, a widely regarded executive known as much for his personal touch as for management skills as president and COO of Masco Corp., died unexpectedly last month from an apparent heart attack in his home in Michigan. He was 60 years old.

"Whether he was acquiring a company or selling a product, he made it a very personal thing," said Robert Strudler, U.S. Home CEO and vice chairman and COO of Lennar, who reflected the view of many home building executives in recounting why Kennedy was so well liked and respected. "He was a special individual with whom you created a special relationship," said Strudler.

Kennedy joined Masco in 1978, served as president of the Delta and Peerless Faucet division, then as president of Masco's Building Products Companies beginning in 1989 before being appointed company president in 1996. He is credited with engineering a series of acquisitions in the building products industry, helping drive Masco's sales from $3.2 billion in 1996 to $10 billion in 2002.

He was active in a variety of church and charitable causes, including the Home Building Industry Foundation Advisory Board, Cornerstone Schools -- where he and his wife supported a number of students -- and The City of Hope, a Los Angeles-based center of excellence for cancer treatment, which honored him in 1998 with its Spirit of Life award for his distinguished service.

"Ray was a leader who was loved, admired, and respected by all who knew him," said Masco chairman and chief executive, Richard A. Manoogian, who will assume Kennedy's responsibilities on an interim basis.