Kindling fires in all the rooms simmered against the fall chill, and memories of loved ones lost warmed the hearts of those who showed up at the home of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) last night.
Kennedy lent his sprawling McLean estate to launch the Allard K. Lowenstein Fund in memory of the well-known politician who was shot to death in March 1980 by Dennis Sweeney, a young man with whom Lowenstein had crossed paths during his varied career.
About 200 family members and friends who had in some way been touched by Lowenstein milled around and reminisced about the man who was a vocal force in Kennedy family political campaigns.
"Al had a magnetic effect on all of us," said Kenneth Levine, who once worked for Lowenstein when he served in Congress. "He was so committed to a better vision of America. It wasn't that he fought the war or for civil rights, it was that he truly aroused people and made them think."
"Outside of my family, no single person has had more of an impact on my life," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who met Lowenstein 20 years ago when he was a student at Harvard and Lowenstein was lecturing. "He had civilized zeal and a way of unfrustrating people by making them productive."
About $25,000 was raised last night for the fund, which was set up to organize the massive collection of papers left by Lowenstein, about 600 boxes of files.
Any money remaining will go toward leadership awards for achievers committed to Lowenstein's lifelong philosophy -- "One man can make a difference."
"He championed the causes we believe in," Kennedy solemnly told those in his living room. "He was an irresistible force that worked not only to make America strong, but to also make her great."