Newly named ambassador to Italy has longtime ties to Kerry

David Thorne was roommate, brother-in-law

By Glen Johnson
Associated Press / August 17, 2009

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Italy is about to gain a US ambassador who not only shares a professional relationship with the president of the United States, but also a personal one forged in war and peace with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

David Thorne, the former college roommate, Vietnam compatriot, and brother-in-law of Senator John Kerry, is being sworn in this evening at Moakley Federal Courthouse. President Obama nominated him June 25 to the post formally known as US ambassador to the Italian Republic and the Republic of San Marino.

The ceremony will have special meaning for Kerry, who preceded Obama as the Democratic Party’s presidential standard-bearer in 2004 and has been friends with Thorne since they attended Yale University and decided to enlist in the Navy in 1966. Thorne’s twin sister, the late Julia Thorne, was Kerry’s first wife and the mother of his two daughters.

Most recently, David Thorne has lived in Brookline and headed an investment firm. As a child, he lived in Italy while his father was a diplomat and publisher of the Rome Daily Herald.

“David will bring to the post a lifelong connection to Italy, a keen intellect, fluent command of the Italian language, and a rich background in southern European affairs,’’ Kerry said in a statement. “David is a veteran who cares deeply about his country and comes from a family steeped in public service, and I’m thrilled that he’s been tapped to serve his nation.’’

Thorne and Kerry were members of Yale’s secretive Skull and Bones society, and with a third classmate - FedEx founder Fred Smith - mutually decided to enlist for Vietnam service.

Kerry married Thorne’s sister after meeting her at the family’s estate on Long Island, and then, upon completing their active duty service in 1969 and 1970, respectively, Kerry and Thorne helped lead Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Thorne, meanwhile, received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1971 and that same year wrote “The New Soldier.’’