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Jack Kantor had a difficult time expressing the intensity of his feelings Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
“He was remarkable,” Kantor said, his voice choked by sadness. “He could have been anything and loafed all his life, but he was a man who really respected people.”
He, of course, was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who died at home in Hyannisport on Tuesday night, after battling a malignant brain tumor for more than a year.
Kantor felt compelled to pay his respects to Kennedy with a visit to the library that bears his slain brother’s name, where condolence books had quickly been set up for the public.
“He tried his best, despite the fact that he could have lived life on an island with palm trees,” Kantor said. “He tried his best to improve society.”
The opportunity to share his regards was also what moved Jeff Goldstein to visit the library.
“Just tears in my eyes all morning, and heard that there was a book of condolence,” he said. “Since I’m in town, there was no way that I couldn’t come here and sign my name.”
It was the large, and larger-than-life, Kennedy family that was foremost in Goldstein’s thoughts. “The joy that they always seemed to have when they were together,” he said.
“And I’m thinking about how sad it is that this health care fight is finally getting to a place where I believe something good will move forward,” Goldstein added, “and how sad I feel that he won’t be here to enjoy it.”
It didn’t take a condolence book to bring out well-wishers in Hyannisport, home to the family compound where the senator spent his final days.
People began to gather at the end of Marchant Ave., a few hundred yards from the compound, in the early hours of the morning, in the hopes of paying tribute to the last Kennedy brother.
Anne Griswold, of Centerville, arrived with flowers and a balloon.
“I brought a balloon just because I think that these flowers might get lost in a sea of other flowers, so I thought if I brought a balloon it would kind of pop out,” Griswold said. “And I brought a thank you note. Not a condolence card, but a thank you note to thank the senator for all he’s done.”
Griswold said she wasn’t entirely sure what motivated her to make her way toward Marchant Ave. upon hearing the news.
“I live three miles from here and the least I can do is drive my car as close as I can get and walk as close as I can get,” she said. “We all feel a connection, and we all are feeling the loss.”
That connection spreads to East Weymouth, where some residents were mulling over the news with their morning coffee.
“It's just too bad,” said David Goodwin, seated at a table in Niko’s Restaurant. “He did a lot for Massachusetts, I know that. I've been around here all my life. I thought he was good. He had his mishaps.”
“Great union man,” added George Cummings. “All the way.”
Down the street, Dennis Sherry was tucking into his breakfast at Stokesy's Egg House. “I saw him two years ago and said hello to him on Nantucket. He was on Straight Wharf with Sen. Kerry,” Sherry said. “I’m very sad. He was a lion. Did a good job.”
WBUR's Bob Oakes, Fred Thys and Steve Brown contributed to this report.
This program aired on August 26, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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