Kennedy's Gravesite Is Near Brothers
Saturday, August 29, 2009; 7:45 PM
The scene at Arlington National Cemetery is simple, and the burial service that will begin momentarily will be brief and intimate, in contrast to the epic memorial service and funeral Mass of Friday night and earlier Saturday.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's gravesite is on a slope, about 20 feet off Sheridan Drive, in Section 45 of the cemetery. It is exactly 100 feet from the site of his brother Robert F. Kennedy's grave, which now sits in the middle of a Kennedy grave arc, with the John F. Kennedy eternal flame at the far point.
Cemetery superintendent John C. Metzler Jr. said he was contacted by Kennedy staff a few weeks ago to discuss burial options, but no decisions were made until the day of the senator's death. He said he had accompanied Kennedy on many visits to his brothers' graves.
The grave was excavated at 7 a.m. Saturday. A small platform with two rows of chairs, seven in front and eight back, is positioned next to it. Mr. Metzler said workers broke an irrigation line while they were digging the hole.
The service is called the "Rite of Committal and Prayer of Commendation." The thick program is printed on marbled parchment with black ink. The flowers lining the stage are white hydrangea and the larger arrangements at either end of the platform also include white roses. The grave site is located between two maple trees.
The new Kennedy markers will be identical to those for RFK: a glossy white oak cross at the head of the grave and a white marble foot marker. It will read:
According to Metzler the Kennedy markers are the only two simple white crosses at the cemetery, and Section 45 is one of the only areas where crosses are permitted. The headstones in the surrounding area of the section are of all shapes and sizes, including larger granite crosses, in contrast to the simple white stones that dominate here.
Presiding over the short service is Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a good friend of the senator. McCarrick enlisted Kennedy and House GOP leader John Boehner to help raise money for D.C. Catholic schools, and the two also saw each other socially from time to time, according to Jim Manley, former Kennedy spokesman.
The "three volleys" in the middle of the service will be fired by seven riflemen, a traditonal military funeral ritual, and not to be confused with a 21-gun salute, which is reserved for presidents. The casket will be carried by eight members from all five service branches, plus a commanding officer, who belong to the "joint casket team." The volleys will be fired by members of the U.S. Army, because Kennedy served two years in the Army after he was expelled from Harvard.
Just 15 family members will attend the service, including Vicki Kennedy, Ted Kennedy Jr., Kara Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, Curran Raclin, Caroline Raclin, Jean Kennedy Smith, Ethel Kennedy, Kiki Kennedy, Kiley Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy III, Grace Allen, Max Allen, Doris Reggie, Judge Edmund Reggie.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Dr. Jill Biden also will attend.