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Yet another sad journey for family patriarch

By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff, 07/22/99

MENEMSHA - On a blissfully beautiful summer day, US Senator Edward M. Kennedy embarked yesterday on yet another journey of excruciating sadness.

For here, in a picturesque harbor of fishing boats and weathered shingles, Kennedy boarded a Coast Guard vessel that would bear him to the body of his nephew. After another shocking death, it was yet another time for the patriarch of America's most famous family to bear the burden of personal tragedy with dignity and stoicism.

After four days of dwindling hope and mournful vigil, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s body, along with those of his wife and her sister, had finally been found on the ocean floor. The elder Kennedy, as he had done so often before, roused himself amid his grief and strode into the public eye to do the family's sorrowful business.

As oblivious tourists crowded the beach and snack shops here, a Coast Guard helicopter swept low over the cottages, brush, and salt marshes of Menemsha to deliver Kennedy and two of his sons to the Coast Guard station. From there, the Kennedys were driven 100 yards down a winding access road to the tip of a long wharf at the end of a snug and crowded harbor.

Escorted by uniformed state troopers, the family members strode purposefully and at a slightly quickened pace to the Coast Guard vessel Menemsha. Once on board, the Kennedys took cover in the boat's cabin as it left the wooden dock and dozens of startled onlookers for a 45-minute trip to the USS Grasp, a salvage ship positioned above John Kennedy's Jr.'s body and the shattered fuselage of his single-engine aircraft.

Onlookers said the Coast Guard widened a broad security zone around the recovery scene even farther just before Kennedy's arrival.

On the docks, word of Senator Kennedy's presence spread quickly among dozens of print and broadcast media, who hastily assembled TV cameras and still-photograph vantage points in case he chose to return here.

The mix of reporters and tourists proved to be an uneasy one, and Menemsha's link to the Kennedy tragedy dampened the day's plans for some vacationers. Paul and Marion McCauley of Marblehead had driven to Menemsha from their vacation residence on Chappaquiddick Island to lunch on lobster rolls and enjoy the beach. But seeing Kennedy changed those plans, and other thoughts about how to spend their 15th annual vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

''We thought we'd have a sunset cookout on Menemsha, but tonight doesn't look like the right night,'' Marion McCauley said.

''No,'' her husband said, peering toward the ocean where Kennedy had just ventured. ''No, it doesn't.''

Through the years, the image of Ted Kennedy - his head bowed, his face tight with grief - has been a bitter symbol of another tragedy befallen a family that has endured so much.

The renewal of that grim responsibility yesterday saddened visitors and Vineyarders alike.

''It's so sad,'' said Donny Brice of West Tisbury. ''What a day for Ted, to go see his beautiful nephew. I'm not a Ted Kennedy fan, to be honest with you, but I feel for him today. The poor guy.''

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 07/22/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.


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