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Kennedy Services Begin as Mourners Line Mass. Motorcade Route

August 27, 2009 at 1:48 PM EDT
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Mourners lined up from Cape Cod to the JFK Library in Boston to commemorate the life of Sen. Edward Kennedy. Kwame Holman reports.

JEFFREY BROWN: A motorcade carrying the body of Senator Edward Kennedy traveled a 70-mile route from Cape Cod to Boston, Massachusetts, today. The hearse passed mourners who gathered to pay tribute to the man who served their state for 46 years.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has our lead story report.

KWAME HOLMAN: Family and friends gathered at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port this morning for the beginning of the formal farewell to Senator Edward Kennedy. The Senate icon died there Tuesday night after a year-long battle with brain cancer; only one of his eight siblings survives.

After a private family mass, Kennedy’s son, Patrick — a Rhode Island congressman — wrestled playfully with a nephew. Anthony Shriver joined in. Shriver’s mother, Eunice, who was Senator Kennedy’s sister, died just two weeks ago.

A short time later, a military honor guard emerged from the home bearing the casket, moving slowly to a waiting hearse, and a final departure from the storied compound on Nantucket Sound.

As the procession to Boston began, people lined the route, some moved to tears. Piped strains of “Amazing Grace” greeted the cortege. The motorcade wended its way past landmarks in Boston and on to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, where the senator’s body will lie in repose until a funeral Saturday.

As the remembrance and memorials continued, the business of filling Kennedy’s Senate seat began in earnest. Last week in a letter, Kennedy asked the Massachusetts legislature to change state law to allow an interim successor to be appointed ahead of a special election.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick supports the idea. He appeared today on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK, D-Mass.: I think that the senator’s made a very reasonable request. It is to permit the governor to make an interim appointment for about the five months it takes between the creation of a vacancy, between now and when that special election occurs. I support the idea of a special election, which is provided for in our current law, and the senator did, as well.

A 'gentle and unassuming' tutor

Yumica Thompson
She actually fell in love with him. He had a great personality, so I guess it put her at ease to read more.

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, in Washington, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled a rendering of Kennedy by the pop artist Andy Warhol.

Elsewhere in the capital, Kennedy was remembered not as the scion of a political dynasty, but as a gentle and unassuming tutor. Kennedy was for years one of a cadre of senators and congressional staff who worked with children as part of the national "Everybody Wins!" reading and mentoring program. Third-grader Larenai Swann read with Kennedy at Brent Elementary School.

LARENAI SWANN: I remember the first time he came and read with me.

ADULT: Was he funny?

LARENAI SWANN: We played "Rock, Paper, Scissors." Whoever won would read the page. But Senator Kennedy won, so -- and we took turns reading.

KWAME HOLMAN: It was not until she returned home that first day that she learned who her new, special tutor was.

LARENAI SWANN: The first day I went home, my mom and my grandmother told me.

ADULT: And what did you think?

LARENAI SWANN: I thought, "Wow."

KWAME HOLMAN: Larenai's mother, Yumica Thompson.

YUMICA THOMPSON: When I found out, I was like, "Oh, OK, that's pretty interesting." I told her that, you know, that that's pretty big, and just go in there, read your best, and do your best, which she did. She actually fell in love with him. He had a great personality, so I guess it put her at ease to read more.

KWAME HOLMAN: Jocelyn Colella is the program coordinator.

JOCELYN COLELLA, coordinator, "Everybody Wins!": He was a really forceful, intimidating figure if you didn't know him personally, but he would come in, and Larenai would be completely consumed by him, his presence, his voice, his demeanor, and she would be wrapped up with him for the time that he was there, and he would be engrossed with her, too. There would be no interruptions while he was working with her.

KWAME HOLMAN: Last year, when Kennedy took ill, he made a point of sending his young charge a letter, to tell her he could no longer assist her.

LARENAI SWANN: It said that he really enjoyed reading with me and he was sick, so he couldn't come anymore.

ADULT: How did that make you feel?

LARENAI SWANN: It made me feel sad that he was sick.

KWAME HOLMAN: Just before his cancer diagnosis, Kennedy sent Larenai a birthday gift: a children's book written by the senator, with an inscription to her.

JEFFREY BROWN: The public will be able to view Kennedy's casket this evening and tomorrow at the Kennedy Library. We'll have more on the history and legacy of the Kennedy family at the end of the program tonight.