From The Barnstable Patriot:
U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy died Aug. 25 where he loved to be, by the shores of Nantucket Sound in Hyannis Port.
At 77, he spent his last year fighting for health care reform while battling a brain tumor. On Saturday, he will be laid to rest next to his brothers John and Robert in Arlington National Cemetery.
Throughout the day, visitors gathered at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main Street to remember and learn about the man who had represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1962. The museum meant a great deal to Ted Kennedy, according to Lynne Poyant, the town’s community services director.
“The thing about the museum for Senator Kennedy was that it was about the Cape years, about family,” she said. “I think that’s one of the reasons he loved it so much, because family was so important to him.”
Poyant recalled standing with Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the senator’s wife, in front of the museum’s family tree wall. “You will see, in Ted’s generation, the fathers who passed at a young age when their kids were relatively young,” Poyant said. “You will see how many kids he was a patriarch to. Mrs. Kennedy told me that Senator Kennedy made it a point of personally sending notes and birthday cards to all of these kids to mark special occasions.”
That level of attention extended beyond the Kennedy clan, even beyond the senator’s political allies.
State Rep. Jeff Perry, a Republican from Sandwich, said the “only number in our Rolodex” to contact in Washington for help with constituent’s concerns is the senator’s office.
Raised a Democrat, Perry joined the GOP during the Reagan revolution of 1980. He was touched in 2005 when Kennedy sent him a Congressional compilation of President Reagan’s years in office, complete with a personal note from the senator.
“I don’t make it a secret that Ronald Reagan is my political hero,” Perry said. “Somehow, somewhere in conversation with him or his staff, [they knew] this thing that happened in Congress would be important to me.”
To state Rep. Matt Patrick, the Falmouth Democrat, Kennedy “was the consummate lawmaker. He was known for reaching across the aisle.”
[...] Patrick cherishes the memory of [an] opportunity, which came about when he accompanied his mother to a political meeting with several senators in Washington. He was 25 and bound for the Peace Corps.
A snowstorm delayed everyone except Patrick and his mother and the senator, so they had Kennedy to themselves for about 15 minutes. Kennedy focused on the young man’s preparation for service, questioning him intensely.
“As Joe Biden said, it was never about him,” said Town Manager John Klimm. “He was very generous with his time. When I was state rep, he hosted several fundraisers for me.”
“He had no pretense at all,” state Sen. Rob O’Leary said. “He reached out to you and treated everyone regardless of rank in the political pecking order with genuine affection.”
O’Leary, a history professor, said Kennedy “will be remembered as one of the great senators of the last 50 years. He was a force in national politics for so long and involved in so many issues. He made so many things happen.”
In a press statement, U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt called Kennedy “the greatest and hardest working senator of our time… a beacon of hope to those less fortunate, making a difference in the lives of millions of Americans. He was a passionate fighter for justice, health care, a minimum wage and a decent quality of life for all. His fingerprints can be found on virtually every major domestic initiative enacted into law during his tenure in Congress.”
State Senate President Therese Murray, in her statement, said Kennedy “assembled an agenda that addressed the needs of the common man and the most vulnerable of our citizens.”
O’Leary called Kennedy “a little prescient” in his opposition to the war in Iraq, but added that Kennedy “felt a little betrayed” on the education reform compromise he struck. He recalled how Kennedy helped preserve the Massachusetts Service Alliance, the state version of AmeriCorps.
If Kennedy will be missed in Washington, that goes double for Hyannis.
“For many years,” recalled Hyannis Fire Department Chief Harold Brunelle, “every year just before Christmas, he used to do a function at the Kennedy rink for underprivileged children, a big skating session. Then they’d go next door to the elementary school and have Santa Claus come in, and a big turkey dinner, and presents.
“He was a great senator, a great neighbor, and a great friend. We’re gonna miss him deeply.”