Chappaquidick doesn't bother me as much as it bothers some others. It was an accident . . . The first reaction to such a shock is denial. I have been through the death of a husband, and I know the first impulse is to deny to yourself that something terrible has happened . . . I've never been able to believe those far-fetched stories about hanky-panky going on. Kennedy likes women, but this was not that kind of woman. This was a sweet, young Polish-American girl who didn't live that way . . . Mary Jo Kopechne's own mother said she voted for Kennedy in 1980."

The coffee table in the suburban home of Dolores Murphy is crowded with copies of Psychology Today, Vogue, Political Science Quarterly, Daniel Jankelovich's New Rules, Walter Lippman and the American Century by Ronald Steel, and a collection of Hannah Arendt's essays. "Every day I read a little of each," she says, "trying to keep up."

She wears crisp seersucker slacks, and her hair looks freshly set. She has a graduate degree in political science from Georgetown University and once taught school in Anacostia. She has been interested in politics for almost as long as she can remember. She did some "general chores" for the Democrats in the 1976 election, but was not heavily involved. Then Ted Kennedy announced his candidacy for the 1980 nomination.

Murray volunteered to workkfor his campaign. Her husband had recently died, two of her three children were grown, and she wanted, she said, "to do something useful. Kennedy's commitment attracted me. is owned by Ro He is consistent in his belief that government should be fair, that no one -- the poor, or minorities -- should have to carry an unfair burden."

She prefered issues research, but the press office was inundated so she threw herself into that task, part of the enduring Kennedy cadre that "comes out of the woodwork when a campaign starts," according to Melody Miller, a Kennedy aide. The size of that cadre is difficult to estimate, but people agree that it's a rare, committed and extremely cheap asset.

Murray worked every day, from November 1979 through the convention the following summer, without being paid. The volunteers often seemed to bring the only enthusiasm to a disorganized campaign. Six months after the campaign, when Murray had an operation, some Kennedy staffer telephoned her almost every day. They sent flowers. "They make you feel like your work is appreciated."

Kennedy's staff is again counting on people coming out of the woodwork. "We're in a different position this time," says Bob Shrum, Kennedy's press secretary. "Last time, too much energy was devoted to deciding whether to run and not enough on how to run. If he should decide to run, our people will be ready."

Murray, a Catholic, plans to be among them. She is attracted by "the nature of Kennedy politics, the idea of an extended family," recalling that whole families came to the Democratic convention to work for Kennedy, even though his chances of being nominated were slight. "There were children there of people who had worked to elect John and Bobby. It was like a family reunion."