Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kennedy Matriarch Dies at 104 Rose Anchored Troubled Family

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kennedy Matriarch Dies at 104 Rose Anchored Troubled Family

Article excerpt

Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy, matriarch of the Kennedy clan, whose faith and quiet strength saw one of America's most prominent families through three generations of political triumphs and personal tragedies, died Sunday evening (Jan. 22, 1995) at her family's home in Hyannis Port. She was 104.

She died from complications of pneumonia, the family said.

Her son, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said through a spokesman: "Mother passed away peacefully. She had a long and extraordinary life, and we loved her deeply."

Mrs. Kennedy, daughter of a congressman, the wife of an ambassador and the mother of a president and two U.S. senators, leaves five descendants serving in elective office at the federal and state levels.

Although her rich, full life was scourged by tragedy, Mrs. Kennedy was an indomitable figure who somehow learned, through her abiding faith in God, to endure. She was a devout Roman Catholic who until disabled by her final illness attended Mass daily.

She seemingly had everything. Her husband, Joseph P. Kennedy, was a self-made multimillionaire, and they had nine children. Those children also gave her 30 grandchildren, 28 of whom are still living. She has 41 great-grandchildren.

But catastrophe struck at Mrs. Kennedy and her family time and again.

Her first son, Joseph Patrick, was killed when his plane exploded over the English Channel during World War II. Her eldest daughter, Rosemary, born slightly retarded, grew increasingly abnormal through her adolescence. A prefrontal lobotomy, authorized by Mrs. Kennedy's husband without her consent, resulted in disaster. Rosemary is still living in an institution in Wisconsin.

Mrs. Kennedy's second daughter, Kathleen,who had disappointed Mrs. Kennedy first by marrying a British Protestant and later, after he died, by announcing her intention to marry a divorced Protestant, was killed in a plane crash.

Her second son, John Fitzgerald, became president of the United States and the victim of an assassin.

Another, Robert Francis, attorney general of the United States when his brother was in the White House and later U.S. senator from New York, was also assassinated within hours after winning the California primary in his bid for the presidency.

Her once-vigorous husband, who died in 1968, spent his last six years in a wheelchair, silent and paralyzed after a stroke.

In 1984, her grandson David, son of Robert F. Kennedy, was found dead in a hotel room in Palm Beach, Fla., of what police said was a drug overdose.

"I've learned to be brave and to put my faith in the will of God," Mrs. Kennedy once said. "I've had such a thrilling life. And being a Catholic has been a tremendous help. A strong belief is the most wonderful thing that can happen to you. The fact that I have had one has given me a certain stability. But don't say I have fortitude. That makes me sound so sanctimonious."

Into her 80s, Mrs. Kennedy traveled extensively, campaigning for her son, Ted Kennedy, raising money for the mentally retarded and attending society balls. But as she neared 100, not even the legendary family vigor could bear the weight of her years, and she withdrew from public life.

Elizabeth Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Boston on July 22, 1890, the eldest of six children of a colorful and exuberant politician, John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, and the former Josephine Mary Hannon. …

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