From Coolidge to Bush, politics mattered to her

At 99, she wanted to see another presidential inauguration, even if it were for a Democrat.

By Stephanie Hayes, Times Staff Writer
Published March 9, 2008

LARGO - Edrie Kennedy was all of4 feet 9and 85 pounds. Her attitude was bigger.

This year, more than anything, she wanted to go to one more presidential inauguration - even if the new president, God forbid, turned out to be a Democrat. She wanted to take part, one more time, in the American tradition.

She didn't make it. She died last week at age 99.

She spent her life devoted to the things she believed in. The Republican Party. The parliamentary process. Reading, learning and teaching. Getting on the horn with her local congressman and speaking up.

Mrs. Kennedy's first taste of politics came in 1924, when her high school held a mock election. Her teacher asked her to write a speech in defense of the Progressive Party. She did it, but in her heart, she jibed with Republican nominee Calvin Coolidge.

"We're too dependent on our government," she told a St. Petersburg Times reporter in 1992. She was a mere 84 years old then, working at Pinellas County's GOP headquarters. "We're always looking for someone else to solve our problems. We're becoming extremely spoiled. That was not the original intent of our Founding Fathers."

In the 1940s, she worked with the FBI to filter out Communist cells in New York, said her grandson, Robert Kennedy. She was never scared, he said, except the time she thought someone messed with the brake line on her car.

In the 1950s, she moved to Florida with her 6-foot-1 husband, Roy, and became a registered Parliamentarian. Roberts Rules of Order fascinated her. She knew them inside out.

She taught parliament teams at Florida high schools and colleges. She monitored meetings of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was president of the Clearwater Parliamentarians. She donated money to a private college for parliamentarian programs.

For fun, Mrs. Kennedy watched legislative sessions on C-Span.

"I get a nice little thrill out of seeing that thing be set up every morning," she once told the Times. "It's quite fascinating."

She attended the inaugurations of Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan her favorite and George Bush Sr. She worked on countless campaigns and attended countless political conventions. She met Reagan and both Bushes.

In 2004, she attended the Republican National Convention in New York, where she was interviewed by New York Magazine. Arnold Schwarzenegger was staying at her hotel, and she said she was thrilled because, "I like those muscly men." She didn't like the city's "screwy elevators," because looking onto the street made her dizzy.

Mrs. Kennedy was concerned about education in this country. She thought it was going downhill. She despaired when people used improper grammar on television. The computer was one of the worst inventions, she thought, because it made people stop reading.

"She only had a high school education," said Robert Kennedy, 49. "But she was a self-learner and she was a voracious reader. Beyond anyone I've ever met, she was never content with her position in life, and she always wanted to learn more."

She outlived almost everyone in her family. At age 93, she took her first hot air balloon ride.

Mrs. Kennedy kept driving until two years ago. Her eye doctor made her stop. She had planned to keep going.

She had no secrets to health, but she did eat graham crackers with butter each day, with ice cream for dessert.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.


Edrie Kennedy

Born: Oct. 28 1908.

Died: Feb. 27, 2008.

Survivors: grandson, Robert Kennedy; daughter-in-law, Ann Kennedy.