Memories of Ted will live forever
Kennedy smiled at me gently as I asked him if he thought immigration reform would be possible in the future. It had, after all, failed the year before.
He answered, “Most definitely.”
He added, “It will take a lot of hard work but the right thing would be done in the end.”
He firmly believed what he was saying that day and the day in Jury’s hotel.
After the interviews were over and done with that afternoon, I happened to be side by side with the senator. I gently rubbed his arm and said, “You’re doing a great job.”
I couldn’t let the opportunity slip me by. He smiled down at me, nodded and said “Thank you.”
EXECUTIVE director of ILIR Kelly Fincham met with Senator Kennedy on many occasions to discuss the issues facing the Irish undocumented in the U.S.
Kennedy always responded empathically and with a promise to get the issue fixed.
Fincham’s most memorable encounter with the senator was only two weeks before he suffered his first collapse.
Kennedy, attending a buffet at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in April 2008, asked Fincham for a chair.
“The speaker was hosting a luncheon in honor of outgoing Taoiseach Bertie Ahern -- who had just addressed the joint session of Congress -- and the room was stuffed with Irish American big wigs,” recalls Fincham.
“The lion amongst them all was Kennedy. But he looked grey in the face, and was clearly in some distress.
“’I need a chair,’ he said, to no one in particular. Spying me looking at him, he said, ‘Would you mind bringing me a chair?’ I cast around wildly and grabbed a spare chair before a well-endowed Irish American Hyacinth Bucket type could take it from under me,” said Fincham.
“’I'm saving it for someone,” she said snootily.
“’Well it better be for Senator Edward Kennedy or else I'm taking it,’ I said. In as dignified manner as possible, I wrestled the chair away from her and brought it back to the senator.”
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.