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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy - Beloved in Boston

She may be gone but she is certainly not forgotten.  Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald (1890-1995), who held the Kennedy family together through tragedy and triumph for much of the 20th century, is permanently enshrined along Boston’s waterfront.

The mother of President John F. Kennedy, Rose was the daughter of Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, the wife of businessman Joseph P. Kennedy, the mother of nine children - including an American president, two more senators, an ambassador and a war hero - and the grandmother of 30 children.  A highly educated woman of zest and curiosity, she led a rich and eventful life, becoming a public figure on the world stage for much of the 20th century, and relying upon her faith to get her through her later heartache.    

In Boston, two public parks bear her name, and bear witness to the love and affection Bostonians had for her in her life and after she died.

The Rose KennedyGarden, located on Atlantic Avenue, is not far from Rose’s birthplace at 4 Garden Court in the North End.  A small enclosed rose garden, encircled by an iron wrought fence, with a granite fountain as the centerpiece, it is part of Christopher Columbus Park, which runs along the waterfront and looks out onto Boston Harbor.  The Garden was officially dedicated on July 22, 1987 by Rose’s family, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who called his mother “the greatest teacher and most wonderful mother that any child could ever have.”

Today, the Rose Kennedy Garden has 104 rose bushes, one for every year of Rose’s life.

The Rose FitzgeraldKennedy Greenway is a new and evolving boulevard of parks, hotels, restaurants, cultural institutions and tourist amenities that has helped make Boston’s waterfront area a bustling new destination for both residents and visitors.  

The 27 acre swath of Greenway once lay beneath the unsightly and noisy Central Artery, a four lane, mile and a half highway built in the 1950s.  When the highway finally came down, the greenway began to take shape, connecting the city’s waterfront to the rest of downtown.

Since opening in 2008, the Greenway has become one of the city’s most popular public spaces, drawing office workers, tourists, students, conventioneers and local residents to enjoy its sweeping vistas and friendly amenities.  With a magnificent Carousel, public art, water fountains, concerts, food courts, Wi-Fi access and well-tended gardens, the Greenway serves its mission of being an urban oasis that is free and open to all. 

Neighbors along the Greenway, including Boston Harbor Hotel and InterContinental Boston Hotel, have been great partners in ensuring access to the wharfs and harbor walkway that encircles the harbor.

Rose Kennedy is officially enshrined in law too.  Some years ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill proclaiming her birthday, July 22 as “Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Day” in the Commonwealth.

To find more about her Rose’s life, visit the John F.Kennedy National Historic Site in Brookline, or the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library at Columbia Point in Dorchester.  The Library recently issued a book, Rose Kennedy’s Family Album, which traces her life from 1878-1946 and has wonderful photos of the Kennedy family.

Boston has its own Kennedy Tour, a guided walk that takes visitors around nine downtown landmarks specific to the Kennedy family, including the Greenway.

The Rose Kennedy Garden is the first stop on Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, a walking tour of twenty landmarks that tell three centuries of Boston Irish history.  The Trail winds its way through downtown Boston and into the Back Bay, then ends at Fenway Park.

(This story appeared in the Irish Echo newspaper)