Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A family remembered

This young man, Joe, was born in 1888. When he grew up he married Rose, the mayor’s daughter, in 1914. Here she is around 1918 with their first child, whom they named Joe, Jr.

Over the next few years, Rose and Joe had several more children. Here are their eight children in a 1928 photograph.

From oldest to youngest, their names are Joseph, John, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, and Jean. In 1932, a ninth sibling, another brother, will join them. Joe and Rose will name him Edward, but they will call him Teddy.

Here is the whole family in London in 1938, after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Joe Sr. as ambassador to Great Britain. Joe Jr. is 23. Jack is 21. Bobby is 13. Teddy is 6.

Later, the names Skakel and Bouvier and Smith and Shriver and Lawford will become associated with the family through marriage.

Photos abound. Some from 1960 and 1963 and 1968 are frozen in our collective memories and burned into our national psyche. You can find them elsewhere.

Several of Joe’s and Rose’s children grew up to be famous. One spent her entire life in complete obscurity. One married into British royalty. One married a Hollywood movie star. Several died tragically. Two weeks ago, Eunice, who founded the Special Olympics, died at age 88. Edward, a United States Senator for nearly 47 years, died today. He was 77.

Only Jean, 81, a former ambassador to Ireland, survives.

Thomas Gray said it best, I think, in perhaps the best-known stanza of his “Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard”:

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour: --
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

It is a sobering statement, and one worth pondering.


  1. Edward Kennedy may have been the youngest of the brood but to me he was the best. His commitment to fairness, peace and social justice may have won him enemies over the years but in my view that selfless, dogged social morality marked him out as perhaps the greatest American of his generation. His good work in Northern Ireland paved the way to peaceful resolution of the religious conflict there. May he rest in peace.

  2. Teddy Kennedy leaves behind a big empty space. We will miss him.