CROSSED PATHS - The Kennedy Family Remembered


By Bob Weaver

It would be difficult to ignore them, the Kennedys, like them or not, much like the Bush family.

Considering that I am not a "special person," they have crossed my path on several occasions, with little effort on my part.

They have been out there in this world of ours, doing things.

It was Christmas eve in 1985 that I took my son Jon, who was five, to the firehouse at Albright, Preston County, a town virtually destroyed by the thousand year flood in the Cheat River valley, washing away homes and even changing the course of the ancient river.

The Kennedy family had come to the tiny village to offer solace.

A month before we stood on the hill near our home in Kingwood and watched houses being lifted from their foundations to float over the Albright bridge. It was a devastating event for many people in WV, lives lost, homes and communities destroyed.

I tried to help my son understand about the Kennedy folks on that holiday eve. I told him about the assassination of JFK, and that we would be meeting Sen. Ted Kennedy, his brother, on this this dismal and cold evening. And several of Kennedy kids would be there too, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Patrick Kennedy, among others.

I talked with Jon about their politics, tragedies and star-crossed lives. He was not impressed.

I had my newly acquired video camera (back then they cost $1,300), wanting to get Jon on tape with the famous bunch. A crowd of at least 200 crowded into the tiny building with TV and news reporters.

Sen. Kennedy said, "We have come this Christmas eve, our family, to express our sorrow for the suffering of the people of Preston County and WV, their losses and future struggles to come back from this disaster."

I know that Ted Kennedy was a political animal, and we could spend time questioning his politics.

But he came. They came. And it was Christmas Eve.

After the talks, Senator Kennedy walked around and mixed with the people, along with the boys and other members of their extended family.

I worked my way closer with my son, video camera in hand, rolling tape. Jon stood in front of the senator, who bent down to ask of him, "What can I do for you, young man?" After which Jon replied, "Do you have 50 cents for a Coke.?" He didn't.

It was several years later, 1994, that Dianne, Jon and I went to Washington. He was 14 now, and he wanted to go to Arlington National Cemetery and the Kennedy graves. When we arrived, the security people had roped off the area and we were told that the Kennedy family was arriving to place flowers on Robert Kennedy's grave. It was his birthday. The clan came, about twenty five, and placed the flowers and said prayers.

Even then, Ted Kennedy walked toward us behind the rope to say hello and shake hands, apologizing for holding up our grave site visit,

Before 1990, while in Boston for a meeting, a bronze statue of JFK was dedicated by his wife, Jackie. Tens of thousands turned out, and I watched from a window several blocks away.

In more recent years, I have rubbed elbows and conversed with Robert Kennedy, Jr., whose tireless efforts have been to improve the quality of life in a world that is environmentally assaulted. He's the real deal.

It was in 1960 the Kennedys came to WV for the presidential primary, a defining moment in JFK's political career.

John Kennedy walked the streets of most towns in the Mountain State, campaigning. In Spencer, during a pouring rain, he bought a hat at Spencer Department Store and shook hands.

I was there, although I did not shake hands, but I remember looking into his charismatic face, to be remembered the day he was shot down in 1963.

My point is simply this: The Kennedys were people with passion, drive and defects, but never a time have I encountered them did they not speak for justice, the working class, the poor, the neglected and the hurt.

That surely must mean something during a most troubling time in Washington.