Karl Decker Remembers Ted Kennedy

Karl Decker, a longtime English instructor at Staples High School, sent along this recollection of the “Lion of the US Senate”:

Ted Kennedy, circa 1964

Ted Kennedy, in earlier days.

Smilin’ Ed was his nickname at our prep school:  Milton Academy.  He was in my class.  He was not a “friend”; his locker in the gym was next to mine.  He used to sting my naked butt, snapping a wet towel at me.  I got back at him one day by crushing graham crackers to powder in his jacket pocket.

He was a boarding student, and in retrospect, one among the many who led fairly lonely lives away from their families.  And there was a fair social separation between the day students and the boarders.  We rarely had any serious contact — at least that I recall.

He giggled a lot, fell asleep in class, squirmed in his chair, was often glancing around to attract attention, as the butt of practical jokes — but weren’t we all at that time trying to find ways to affirm ourselves, to be noticed, to find a way to relate, maybe not even aware of who or what we were?  Let alone what we might become.

Once I was invited to an afternoon social tea at the Kennedy home in Jamaica Plain.  I think Bobby and JFK were there.  I recall nothing more.  But I did go to our 20th Milton Academy reunion in Boston in 1970, and he was there.

I found myself on the deck of a luxurious condominium overlooking Boston Harbor.  He and I, oddly, were alone for a moment — except for one other man, not a graduate, in a dark suit standing nearby.  The Secret Service had been assigned to him after JFK’s death several years before.

Ted approached me, addressed me by name, we looked out over the ships in the harbor, and we chatted some I guess, but I recall him suddenly saying, “Karl, I no longer have any private life.  I can’t go to a store alone, I can’t go to the movies, I can’t walk on the street or the beach.  I am always accompanied by the Secret Service…”

That is all I factually recall.  Of course I followed his career — and watched him truly become a great man, seriously a dedicated champion of the social causes that even today need to be sustained and augmented.

2 responses to “Karl Decker Remembers Ted Kennedy

  1. An enormous number of pieces of legislation that this country prides itself on would not have been drafted, approved or continue to receive the financial support necessary to be implemented daily if it weren’t for the decades upon decades of work this man did.

    At some point in time, I hope that his family finds some solace in our appreciation of all that he did especially because it would have been totally understandable if he had not remained in politics.

  2. Love the way you put a human face on this larger-than-life man, Karl. Thanks!