- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 30, 2009

BOSTON | Admirers of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy thronged the streets of his hometown Saturday, ignoring a pelting rain to bid farewell to the man who had risen from a troubled past to become the undisputed champion of the American liberal movement.

In the Boston neighborhood of Mission Hill, mourners waited outside the packed Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, a towering edifice rising above modest one- and two-story condominiums home to middle-class Irish-Catholic, Hispanic and black families.

Throughout the city, flags remained at half-staff during the week after Mr. Kennedy’s passing late Tuesday night. Shop windows in the area were painted with messages of affection, inspirational quotes from Mr. Kennedy, and signs reading “Thank you, Ted.” Neighbors surrounding the basilica peered out of their windows as celebrities and politicians trickled into the Catholic church before the funeral service Saturday morning.

“I think he’s kind of a champion for Boston,” said resident Kyle Siconolfi, 22, watching from a house across the street from the church. “In a moment like this, it’s sad to see a liberal lion go, but it’s almost a rallying point for his causes and hopefully breathes more life into them with his passing.”

The vista of throngs of mourners would be repeated in sunny Washington a few hours later, as the motorcade bearing the senator’s casket stopped at the Capitol on its way to the private burial Saturday evening at Arlington National Cemetery. An estimated 1,000 colleagues, staffers and friends gathered on the steps leading to the Senate chamber to greet the casket.

The hearse drove slowly onto the Capitol grounds at 6:25 p.m. as onlookers cheered and applauded. Mr. Kennedy’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, got out of the car to hug and talk with well-wishers before the procession of nearly 20 cars and a police escort moved on. Other members of the family followed behind, shaking hands.

“Faithful servant of the people and longtime spokesman for the government of the people, go now to your place of rest and meet your God,” said the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, chaplain of the House of Representatives, in a brief ceremony. The crowd then sang “America the Beautiful,” waving flags in the air.

Among the packed throng on the Senate steps was ailing West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the only senator who had served longer in the body than Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Byrd, who has been unable to take part in Senate deliberations in recent months, sat in a wheelchair at the foot of the staircase, a small American flag in his hand.

At the Flann O’Brien’s Pub just feet away from the Basilica on Tremont Avenue in Boston, patrons drank a drink called the “Grateful Ted,” a twist on the usual cocktail the “Grateful Dead.”

The outpouring of admiration and grief was “the [best] thing that ever happened to my neighborhood,” said Jack Vaughan, a 35-year resident of Mission Hill. “It’s a great respect for a great Democrat, a rich man who will go to heaven, a great progressive.”

Also inside the pub, patron Jane Switchenko, 50, watched the funeral service with her daughter, Caroline, 16. Both women grew emotional and wiped away tears throughout the eulogies.

“It’s just little things in my life that I know for sure that Ted Kennedy had an effect on,” said Mrs. Switchenko, who lauded Mr. Kennedy for spearheading the federally-funded nutritional program for low-income women and children.

In Washington, 73-year-old Dennis Losey of Leesburg, Fla., called Mr. Kennedy “a hero to us.”

“He was outstanding and I hold him to the highest regards - I appreciate his service to our country,” he added. “We are thrilled to be here.”

Lawyer Sheldon Harris, 57, of Washington, praised Mr. Kennedy’s career as a legislator.

“He used the institution in a positive way,” Mr. Harris said. “When the institution fails you can’t get anything done, and he respected the institution. When you lose senior member like Kennedy, you can’t get anything done.”

Kelsey Knutson contributed to this report from Washington.