Kennedy found bond with cross section of Western Pennsylvania
Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff will never forget Sen. Ted Kennedy's visits to Pittsburgh for the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinners.
"The party just loved him, and he came whenever he was available," Masloff said, recalling the Massachusetts lawmaker who many memorialized Wednesday as "the Lion of the Senate."
Kennedy, 77, who died Tuesday a year after being diagnosed with brain cancer, drew accolades here and elsewhere from supporters and adversaries alike.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican, recalled how Kennedy, a frequent foe in matters of politics, reached out to him when the Santorums' infant son Gabriel died in 1996.
"It wasn't common knowledge that we had lost a child. Kennedy found out and was the first person to call me and offer his condolences, and also to see if there was anything he could do," said Santorum. He said Kennedy, who buried three older brothers before his 40th birthday, "certainly understood the emotional impact of loss."
Jack Shea, president of Allegheny County Labor Council, AFL-CIO, said Kennedy's work on issues such as civil rights, Medicare, education and worker safety endeared him to organized labor.
But Kennedy's personal charisma sticks in Shea's mind. The two met after a Senate hearing years ago.
"I know it sounds odd to say it, but he lit up the room," Shea said.
Greene County native Richard L. Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, was a rank-and-file member of the United Mine Workers of America in 1968 when he met Kennedy while both worked on Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign in the coalfields of Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
"I was impressed with his passion, his vision. He was resolute in the continuity of his convictions in the fight for working people," Trumka said. "You can't replace a Teddy Kennedy. ... He was working people's best friend."
Aliquippa native Bill George, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said Kennedy made friends throughout the region during his brief 1980 presidential bid.
"Ted was in Western Pennsylvania quite a bit. He just loved steelworkers and coal miners. He liked visiting the work sites," George said.
Laborers returned his affection. George recalled a steelworkers convention Kennedy addressed. The applause was so overwhelming that the burly senator yelled, "Thank you, thank you," and implored the crowd to sit down so he could talk.
Former county Coroner Cyril Wecht was chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Party when Kennedy contemplated his presidential bid.
Wecht worked on the investigations of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy. Later, Wecht served as an expert witness, testifying unsuccessfully in favor of an exhumation and autopsy of the body of Mary Jo Kopechne, the young woman who drowned in 1969 when a car Ted Kennedy was driving went over a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island.
Kennedy never mentioned any of that when he called Wecht to ask for input on a possible presidential bid.
Later, when Kennedy flew to Pittsburgh for a Democratic Committee dinner, Wecht met him at the airport and drove him into the city.
"He was a very charming guy, without making you feel he was going out of his way," Wecht recalled. "There was nothing the least bit condescending or arrogant about him. ... You didn't feel he was just going through the motions.
"I feel this is a great loss, whether you are Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative."Additional Information:
'(Ted Kennedy) certainly understood the emotional impact of loss.'
Former Sen. Rick Santorum
He received condolences upon the loss of his infant son
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Malkin could return Wednesday at Edmonton
- Tennessee QB considers transfer to Pitt
- Westmoreland Museum makeover draws raves
- Pitt upsets No. 8 Notre Dame to snap losing streak
- Sax player finds fulfillment in new home
- Statewide program planned to train first responders on hazards of natural gas vehicles
- Franklin Regional wrestling rallies to top Belle Vernon, defend team title
- Exhibit at Kerr Museum in Oakmont explores grief during Victorian times
- Burrell wrestling wins 9th straight Class AA team title
- Accused Kennedy killer’s casket must go to brother, judge rules
- Central Catholic safety Petrishen to sign with Penn State