August 29, 2009

In Memoriam - Mary Jo Kopechne – Dead at the Age of 28 – (genghis)
— Open Blog

It’s a slow news day, so if there’s nothing else on the intermesh or tv, let’s pause for a moment and think about a young woman named Mary Jo, who's life was cut short during the summer of 1969.

By all accounts she was an earnest and idealistic young woman, involved in a variety of political causes and campaigns. Some background:

"Kopechne, born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was the only child of insurance salesman Joseph Kopechne and his wife, Gwen. She was of Polish American heritage. The family moved to New Jersey when she was an infant. She attended parochial schools growing up."

"After graduating with a degree in business administration from Caldwell College for Women in New Jersey in 1962, Kopechne moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to teach for a year at the Mission of St. Jude as part of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1963, she moved to Washington, D.C., to work as secretary to Florida Senator George Smathers."

She later went on to work for Senator Robert Kennedy (D - N.Y.) on his secretarial staff and continued working for him until his assassination in 1968. Following that she went on to work in political consulting and appeared to be well on her way to having a very successful career. In addition:

"She lived in the Georgetown neighborhood with three other women. She was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and fellow Polish American Carl Yastrzemski. She was a devout Roman Catholic with a demure, serious, "convent school" demeanor, rarely drank much, and had no reputation for extramarital activities with men."

Accounts vary as to how she died, but for what it's worth:

"On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, held in honor of the Boiler Room Girls. It was the fourth such reunion of the Robert Kennedy campaign workers."

"Kopechne reportedly left the party at 11:15 p.m. with Robert's brother Ted Kennedy, after he — according to his own account — offered to drive her to catch the last ferry back to Edgartown, where she was staying. She did not tell her close friends at the party that she was leaving and she left her purse and keys behind."

Kennedy stated he made a wrong turn on the way and came upon a narrow, unlit bridge without guardrails. Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off the bridge and it overturned in the water. Kennedy extricated himself from the submerged car but Kopechne died, after what Kennedy said were several diving attempts to free her."

The rest of course is history. Regarding Ms. Kopechne's funeral:

A funeral for Kopechne was held on July 22, 1969, at St. Vincent's Roman Catholic Church in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, attended by Kennedy. She is buried in the parish cemetery on the side of Larksville Mountain.

It should be noted that Ms. Kopechne is not being laid to rest today at Arlington National Cemetary. But I would like to wish that she continue to rest in peace.

Note: Most of the photos available of Ms. Kopechne are from her high school yearbook. Here's one of her in what appears to be a policy meeting (it's cropped from a larger photo) looking a bit serious. Despite that, she was clearly a very attractive woman.

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