Mourners gather in MA for Kennedy memorial

August 27, 2009 9:17:46 AM PDT
Mourners gathered Thursday at both ends of a 70-mile route that was to carry the body of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy from the Cape Cod home where he spent his final days to the presidential library bearing the name of one of his slain brothers[FULL VIDEO COVERAGE: Kennedy through the years]
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The late senator's loved ones began arriving shortly before noon for a private Mass at the family compound. Among those heading in were his nieces Caroline, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, and Maria Shriver, daughter of his late sister Eunice.

After the Mass, a motorcade was scheduled to leave for Boston and pass sites that were significant to the senator on the way to the library, which he helped develop. His body will lie in repose there until Friday, a Senate office statement said.

Austin Howe, 15, a high school student from Laurel, Md., came with his 46-year-old father, Scott Howe, to see the Boston library and joined about 20 others before it opened its doors Thursday morning. Father and son planned to pay their respects to Kennedy after the statesman's body arrived in the afternoon.

"He is someone who made a difference," Austin Howe said. "This is a person who served the people of Massachusetts and served the people of the United States."

Trudy Murray, 86, a native of Ireland who later lived in England, said Kennedy helped her and her family get visas when they moved to the United States in 1969.

"I loved Ted Kennedy. I cried yesterday when I put on the TV and saw that he had passed away," said Mullaney, a retired nurse who now lives in Brockton.

"He made his mistakes, but I don't even want to hear them. I forgive all of them because he was such a good man," she said.

At the end of a barricaded road leading to the Cape Cod compound, a bouquet of white and yellow lilies lay on the lawn of David Nylan's vacation rental, and a U.S. flag flew at half-staff in Kennedy's memory.

Nylan, 38, of Malden, said people have stopped near his house to leave flowers since Kennedy died Tuesday at age 77 after battling brain cancer. Some have asked Nylan and friends who are sharing the house to lead them down the road to view the Kennedy house. "The Kennedys and Hyannis and the Cape, they just kind of go hand in hand," he said. "They're just a great family from around here, and people respect what they've done in office, and the good things they've done."

"Of course, they've had some black marks against them, but who hasn't?" he said.

On Main Street in downtown Hyannis, flags, flowers and personal notes lay at the base of a flagpole outside the John F. Kennedy Museum, where about two dozen people gathered.

Someone had placed an old Kennedy campaign sign with a new inscription: "God bless Ted, the last was first," referring to his ascension to political greatness after the untimely deaths of his two older brothers.

Several enlarged photos depicted events in Kennedy's life -- meeting with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., reading to a schoolgirl. A rosary hung over a picture of Kennedy standing in his office.

Plans are being finalized for a private memorial service at the presidential library Friday evening and for the funeral Mass on Saturday morning at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica -- commonly known as the Mission Church -- in Boston's Mission Hill neighborhood. President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the funeral.

All of the living former presidents will also attend the funeral, said a person familiar with the arrangements who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details.

Shortly before the Mass, 44 sitting senators and 10 former senators will be among a group of approximately 100 dignitaries who will pay their respects to Kennedy at the library before making their way to the cavernous basilica, built in 1878.

Included in the group is former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, of Indiana, who pulled Kennedy from the wreckage of a small plane that crashed near Springfield, Mass., in June 1964. The pilot and a legislative aide were killed, and Kennedy suffered a broken back.

Kennedy's favorite song, "The Impossible Dream" from the musical "Man of La Mancha," will be played at one of the services, according to the person familiar with the arrangements.

Thursday's motorcade is expected to go by St. Stephen's Church, where his mother, Rose, was baptized and her funeral Mass celebrated; cross the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the Boston park that he helped create and that is named after his mother; and pass historic Faneuil Hall, where Boston Mayor Thomas Menino will ring the bell 47 times, once for each year Kennedy served in the Senate.

Kennedy will be buried Saturday evening near his slain brothers -- former President Kennedy and former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy -- at Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia.

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