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Del. Donoghue recalls his years with Kennedy

August 26, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Tri-State notables mourn Kennedy's passing

HAGERSTOWN -- While many were mourning Tuesday's death of U.S. Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, a Washington County legislator was feeling the loss personally and hoping the Massachusetts senator's long quest for major health care reform wouldn't falter.

Maryland Del. John P. Donoghue served on Kennedy's staff from 1976 to 1980. During that time, he said, Kennedy spoke often of his hope for change in health care.

"He often said every member of Congress can have the best health care, be seen immediately and get no bill," said Donoghue, D-Washington. "If it is good enough for us, he said, then it is good enough for every U.S. citizen. I hope his message will live on."

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Donoghue, who was one of 13 children, said Kennedy helped pay his tuition at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., which he was attending while on the senator's staff.

"He was a very warm, very funny man," Donoghue said Wednesday by telephone.

During his years on Kennedy's staff, Donoghue often accompanied the senator to Hyannis Port, Mass., where he would go sailing with Kennedy family members.

Donoghue recalled an occasion in the U.S. Senate when the bells rang announcing a vote was imminent and Kennedy was out of the office having lunch with another senator.

"I jumped in the senator's 1969 Pontiac LeMans convertible and picked him up to get him to the vote," Donoghue said.

Kennedy was smoking a large cigar, which he left in the car's ashtray as he dashed into the U.S. Senate for the vote.

"It caught some gum wrappers in the ashtray on fire while he was gone and I had to put it out," leaving the cigar a soggy mess, Donoghue said.

Feeling guilty, Donoghue decided to buy the senator some cigars to replace the one that was ruined.

"A day later, I handed the cigars to him and he said they looked like shoelaces," Donoghue said, meaning they were way too thin for his taste.

One of Donoghue's fondest memories was an assignment to escort Kennedy's mother, Rose, around while she was visiting family in the Washington, D.C., area.

"I was to start by driving her to morning Mass, but I was late because of traffic," Donoghue said. When he arrived at the home of her son-in-law, Sargent Shriver, Donoghue found Rose Kennedy sitting on the front porch, waiting.

She spoke nary a word to Donoghue on the way to Mass, but on the return trip, she lectured him on punctuality.

"She asked me how I thought her son, John, got where he got without being punctual," Donoghue recalled.

Later that day, which was Donoghue's 21st birthday, he was called into the dining room of the Shriver home, where he found a party in his honor, including a cake.

"Rose Kennedy gave me $100 and Ted gave me a bottle of Dom Pérignon champagne," Donoghue said.

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