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Column: The Kennedy connection

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Well, the Kennedys are gone.

Edward Kennedy's son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, declined to run for another term. For the first time in 64 years there is no Kennedy in the U.S. Congress.

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And then -- Jan. 18 -- R. Sargent Shriver, the most illustrious of the in-laws, died at age 95.

Did you note -- President Obama was born in that year John F. Kennedy was inaugurated. "Ask not what your country can do for you..." Fifty years gone by.

What an extraordinary individual Pres. Kennedy was. Oh - the first Irish American president, the first Catholic president, the president who won a Pulitzer Prize for literature (for his book, "Profiles in Courage"). JFK was the president who caused the news media to find the word "charisma." Kennedy charisma.

It is remarkable how that family reached out to Worthington. There ought to be a Kennedy file in Worthington's historic archives. As a matter of fact, there is a Worthington MN file in the Kennedy archives. The JFK Library at Boston has Sargent Shriver's papers and Shriver kept a Worthington file, the only thing of its kind in any of the presidential libraries.

Think of this: President Kennedy's (and Hubert Humphrey's) Peace Corps was authorized by the U.S. Congress on Sept. 22, 1961. Less than one month later -- Oct. 13 -- Sargent Shriver, first director of the Peace Corps, was speaker at the National Cornpicking Contest on Bob Burns' Evergreen Farm on Worthington's north border, the north side of I-90.

Shriver came to Worthington to talk to young farmers with agriculture majors and to farmers newly retired, or about to retire. He urged farmers to volunteer themselves for the Peace Corps and a tour of service teaching farming in Africa, or maybe central America.

John Fenstermacher was Worthington's mayor in that time. Shriver's notes include a jotting: Fenstermacher is pronounced "Fence-ter-mocker." It also is noted there was not enough time allowed for travel.

Shriver left Washington at 8:15 a.m. and arrived at Minneapolis at 11:15. He was to fly to Worthington in a private plane, arriving at 1:30 p.m. Those who remember the day remember it was near 3 p.m. when the speaker landed at Worthington Regional.

That late arrival brought a memorable scene. Shriver had not eaten and courtesy required that he be given some chance for a meal. Another hour could be lost, however, in a stop at a restaurant.

About 1 p.m., Florence Vance made a quick trip home. Florence had some cold chicken. She arrived back at the airport with a chicken dinner in a basket, covered by a bright red cloth. Chicken waiting at the airport. This tickled Shriver. He waved a drumstick and laughed as he told of family chicken picnics at his home in Maryland. Shriver had that same charisma the Kennedys held in surplus. The little airport crowd was quickly in awe.

There was another thing memorable that day. Shriver said he knew nothing about picking corn. He set out to fill this gap in his knowledge. He studied results and took notes from the big score board that was erected on the contest site. He went in the field and talked with corn pickers. He toured exhibits along the 40 acres of tents and displays.

More familiar than Shriver visits at Worthington (he was also 1971 Turkey Day speaker) --- more familiar is the legendary Turkey Day (1967) when Robert Kennedy came to town. There was a crowd estimated at 50,000 and no one doubted this. People packed elbow to elbow from the speakers' stand across all of 10th Street to the steps of the Hotel Thompson and the entry to Schmidts' shoe store. People were packed across Fourth Avenue to Firestone and across Third Avenue to the State Bank.

There was a recent column that recalled:

"...the first office seeker to leave a car and begin walking (the length of 10th Street) was Sen. Robert Kennedy ... Kennedy got out of a car at the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue and headed for a crowd at the curb in front of the Long Branch. Sen. Walter Mondale, who was riding with Kennedy, then also left the car with a bit of uncertainty ..."

Kennedys at Worthington. Unlikely experiences.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column runs Saturdays.

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