Friday, December 14, 2012

Inspired by Jackie Kennedy...

By Mary Claire Kendall

From the start of working to save Ronald Reagan's childhood home in Chicago*, two weeks ago today, i.e., Friday, November 30, I've drawn inspiration from Jackie Kennedy, who saved Lafayette Square and Jackson Place, going up against the most powerful of all interests, and catalyzing the artful blending of the old and the new.  A whole new way of looking at development.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy
Gary Walker, owner of Salon ILO in Georgetown, reminded me today that Jackie also saved Grand Central Station and that it was her salvation. In 1975 when it was threatened with being demolished, she was suffering from severe depression and it cured her because it gave her a cause. 

In front of the building at 832 E. 57th Street, in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, 
where Ronald Reagan lived with his family when he was four, from which he dated
his first memories. President Obama's home is a few blocks away. 

She is truly an inspiration for me, because saving Reagan's childhood in Chicago won't be easy, but we'll prevail, I feel confident. I have an amazing team backing me up, including Peter Hannaford, who knew Ronald Reagan as well as anyone, having worked for him both when he was Governor of California and President of the United States. Peter wrote a great piece in The American Spectator earlier this week on this effort, titled "Historic Home or Grassy Strip?"  And, many others are helping, including the team at Shirley Banister... each playing a critical role... providing information,  intervention, outreach... and great heart for a man and leader who reminded Americans of our heritage of freedom and opportunity and forged paths for its renewal... 

His own path began in Illinois, and Chicago during a formative year that made all the difference in his life... and ours... 

Those interested in supporting this cause may send contributions to:

Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home*
P.O. Box 3772
Washington, DC 20027-3772

Please note, if we do not succeed in our quest, unless otherwise specified by donor, first net $32,000 will go toward the statue of "Dutch" Reagan as a child playing on a Civil War cannon in Tampico's town park, to be displayed in the same park in Tampico, where he was born, after which contributions will be divided equally among President Reagan's other Illinois residences.  

If we do succeed, I will still encourage the board to make a donation to the Tampico Birthplace to help pay for the sculpture and, each year thereafter, to make a donation divided equally among all the Reagan Illinois homes.

* My op-ed, "Hyde Park Showdown over Reagan's childhood home," published in Washington Examiner on December 9, was called "an eloquent requiem" by prominent Chicago preservationist Lynn Becker, who shares my sentiments.

*When writing check, it's easier if you abbreviate to: Friends of Pres. Reagan's Chicago Home.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Remembering A Good Friend

Remarks by
Mary Claire Kendall
at Karen Roberts' Funeral
Christ Church Georgetown
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Karen Roberts c. 1995 at her lovely
c. 1840 Georgetown home
I first visited Karen at her home on Monday, April 16th 2001. It was Easter Monday, late in the afternoon. She was sitting up in bed, with that distinctive, graceful bearing, combined with that down-to-earth, insatiable appetite for all that life offered—that spirit, ready to jump on a plane and go to exotic world destinations, that characterized her to the end.

Exactly a year later we spoke about the spiritual journey she was on. She relayed to me that someone had actually suggested that her suffering was a punishment. Well, I quickly disabused her of that possibility!

She came to understand that God loved her and was entrusting her with the agony of her gradual, total incapacitation for a higher spiritual reason ... so that, just as she excelled in all her worldly endeavors, when it came time to surrender her soul she would zoom straight to heaven ...

My last visit with Karen came exactly two and a half years after that first Easter Monday visit. It was Monday, October 13th. We were celebrating her mother Maxine’s 93rd birthday… Karen hadn’t come downstairs since Sunday, which was very unusual and a sign of her worsening condition. So we celebrated in her bedroom, hovering around her as she sat up in bed, suffering through the ever more horrific trials of just trying to breath. Yet, all the while she related with each of us as she always did. At 11 o’clock, when I was getting ready to leave after an evening downstairs reminiscing, Karen asked me to come up…

To my surprise, she was all tucked in bed with her headgear on, and literally looked like she was ready for “lift off”—so cute ... And, she wanted to make sure I was coming this weekend. So we set Sunday, and she clenched her hand, as best she could, and pursed her lips, mouthing “good.” But this time her look was so different ... it was a serious look, one of quiet and intense determination, as if she knew she was preparing for a far different visit ... the visit of a lifetime.

I had tried to impress upon her how wonderful heaven would be. One night this summer when I was describing its magnificence, in keeping with what St. Paul reported, she quizzed me, “You think so?” and I said emphatically “I know so!”

The last time we talked about heaven was on September 21st after an Emmys party at her home. There had just been a tribute to all the stars who had died ... it was very moving ... Johnny Cash, whom she knew, was among those remembered ... now, she had a newly-minted friend in heaven, ready to usher her in ... no doubt, to the accompaniment of his country music...

And, now, all of us have our own friend in heaven—someone to turn to when life here below becomes, at times, well, less than heavenly. And, my plea to Karen will be to help me handle the tough times with at least half the equanimity, elegance and quiet strength with which she faced the paralyzing, mystery disease known as Lou Gehrig’s. And, to enjoy the good times with the same great zest for life, which she had to the end. 

About Me

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I am a writer and producer. My book, "Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends," was published in 2015 in the United States and in Spain in 2016 under the title "TambiƩn Dios pasa por Hollywood." Also, see me on Twitter @maryclairerose and Linked In.