Kennedy sat down on the chair Fincham had retrieved for him.
“To my horror, he looked as if he was going to pass out,” remembers Fincham.
She held his hand and asked him could she could get him anything.
“A glass of water with some lemon,” was the reply.
“Ignoring the well-heeled throngs crowding the luxury buffet table, I scooted outside and swiped three glasses of water. I didn't think one would be enough. I waited till he'd recovered his composure and then wished him well and he said, ‘Thank you.’”
Then it happened. A moment Fincham will never forget.
Kennedy turned to her and said, “Kelly, don't give up -- we will pass immigration reform.”
“I wished him well and wish now I had known it would be the last time I would see him. I would have thanked him for everything he had done for us in the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.”
PATRICK Morris of Coral Gables, Florida had the pleasure of driving Kennedy and his wife Victoria from a labor union meeting at the Sheraton Bal Harbor to a fundraiser in Coral Gables 15 years ago.
“I can remember that 40-minute ride like it was yesterday. I introduced myself to the senator as I held the door for him and his wife. Two minutes into the car ride he said, ‘With a name like Pat I have to ask what part of the country are you from?’”
By country, Kennedy of course meant Ireland. Morris told the senator all about his Irish heritage, his family history and the immigration tale behind his family’s journey to the U.S.
“He seemed genuinely interested when I told him how my dad in 1960 had worked as a young committeeman in Long Island for his brother John's campaign,” remembers Morris.
“He had a big smile on his face when I told him I still have a picture of me at three years old in my cousin's arms with a big Kids For Kennedy sign in the background.
“He roared with laughter when I told him I had memories of knocking on doors in 1968 in Glen Cove, New York, with his brother, Senator Bobby Kennedy. He laughed when I told him my grandmother and all my Irish family in Ireland still had pictures on their mantles of President Kennedy.”
It was a connection and conversation Kennedy had with thousands of Irish Americans but for Morris it was one he would treasure forever.
“More than anything that day was an insight into a man who liked and cared about people. As we left the car, I said, ‘Thank you, senator.’ He said, ‘Call me Teddy.’
“That car ride will be one I will remember forever.”
NEW York lawyer Brian O’Dwyer first met Kennedy in 1963.
“I was a freshman at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. and was eager to intern with the recently elected senator from Massachusetts. Armed with a letter of introduction from my father I sought the coveted internship for the newest star of the Kennedy family,” O’Dwyer told the Irish Voice last week.
Although the work of an intern is mundane, O’Dwyer was far from disappointed.
“I remember that Ted would always know who we were and would ask us about our lives. Needless to say we were thrilled, so my personal admiration of Ted Kennedy stated well before my 21st birthday.”
O’Dwyer over the years developed a friendship with Kennedy. He recalls the senator’s disappointment at the failure of his immigration bill.
“I remember him coming to me and saying, ‘Take a look at the bill Brian, I sure took care of the Irish.’ He never forgot a friend or an enemy, but constantly strived to make sure bridges were built and gaps overcome,” said O’Dwyer.
“He profoundly influenced my life and an entire generation of Irish Catholics. We will not see the likes of him again.”
PAUL Hill, one of the Guilford Four who is married to Courtney Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s daughter, tells the Irish Voice about the funeral of his wife’s uncle this past weekend.
“The heavens opened and poured at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help as the world bid farewell, to the ‘senator of perpetual help,’ writes Hill in an email.
“In the once Irish ghetto of Roxbury, Massachusetts, it was perhaps all the more fitting for a man who dedicated his life to furthering the cause of the disposed and the downtrodden of the United States, that he would lie in repose amidst the dilapidated buildings of Roxbury.”
Hill said it wasn’t the eulogies from the pulpit that “summed up the measure of this great man,” but the quiet “respectful stories” from the general public.
While Hill was shopping for a dress for his daughter, Saoirse, on Main Street in Martha’s Vineyard, the owner of the store told Hill that Kennedy had helped her husband get a visa to come to the U.S.