While I would like to believe one of Dad’s proudest moments was when I came into the world and he became a father, the proud moment he talked about most frequently was meeting Robert Kennedy. As I’ve written about before, Dad was a Kennedy family fanatic, and loyally supported all of their political campaigns.
Dad was a bellhop in a New York City hotel at the time of the fateful encounter, having immigrated to the U.S. a few years prior. The staff had all been placed on high alert, and Dad positioned himself so he would be face-to-face with one of his idols. “How do you do, Mr. Kennedy,” Dad stuttered out nervously as he extended his hand. Kennedy, already a pro at working the public though still quite young, returned with a firm handshake and a smile. There may have been a bit of casual chit-chat between the two, but I don’t remember the specifics.
Anyways, Dad’s face would light up every time he told that story, and he would reenact the handshake for Mom and I. Of course, Dad was devastated when both John and Robert were assassinated. He followed the mystery behind those political murders very closely as well, reading countless books on the subject and watching many documentaries.
I always found it interesting that Dad treated the Kennedy family like they were royalty, while thumbing his nose at the British monarchy. Of course, being from Northern Ireland, the relations between the two were guarded at best. The success of the Kennedy family in America made Dad even prouder to be part of this country.