Walter P. Kennedy, 78, who retired as sergeant at arms of the House of Representatives in 1993, died of cardiac arrest Oct. 24 at Washington Hospital Center. He lived in Bethesda.

Mr. Kennedy began his 44-year career on Capitol Hill as administrative assistant to Rep. Gordon Canfield (R-N.J.). He was a legislative pair clerk working for the House leadership before being elected sergeant at arms by members of the House in the late 1960s.

After he retired, he was a political consultant.

Mr. Kennedy was born in England to Irish parents who came to this country when he was 3. The family settled in Paterson, N.J.

Mr. Kennedy served in the Army as a medic in Europe during World War II. He was a graduate of Seton Hall University and the Georgetown University law school.

He was a volunteer with the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Committee on Scouting and Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kensington, where he was a member of the Holy Name Society and Social Concerns Committee. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Ana L. Bou Kennedy of Kensington; seven children, Walter P. Kennedy Jr. of Woodbridge, Ana L. Kennedy of Rockville, Thomas F. Kennedy of Laurel, Dennis M. Kennedy of Alexandria, Stella M. Kennedy-Dail and Kevin J. Kennedy, both of Beltsville, and Kathleen P. Kennedy McGovern of Wheaton; a brother; three sisters; and 12 grandchildren.