Memories of Ted will live forever
A year later, I again had the pleasure of meeting the senator, this time wearing my reporter’s hat. Then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern was visiting the capital for his annual St. Patrick’s Day visit. I was invited along as a member of the press to document the visit.
In one of the small rooms off the halls of Congress nearly 20 reporters gathered to witness a brief meeting between Ahern and Kennedy.
Three questions were allowed.
I was lucky enough to have my voice heard over the others. Mine was to the senator.
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.