Thursday, January 19, 2006

Memorial for former Sen. Gene McCarthy

A lot of you know that I am friends with my 85-year-old doppelganger named Catherine Foley Quigley. (Or maybe I am her doppelganger) She is also a writer and is the coolest senior citizen I know. Her ex-husband was the brother-in-law of former Sen. Gene McCarthy, the 1968 presidential candidate.  Catherine was friends with McCarthy's wife, Abigail. Abigail died in 2000 and Gene McCarthy died a few weeks ago. The McCarthy's had separated in 1968 but never divorced.
Here is Catherine's report on the memorial service for McCarthy, a unique voice in American politics:
Last Saturday I attended the Memorial Service for Senator Eugene McCarthy at the National Cathedral on Wisconsin Avenue in DC. Although he was my ex-brother-in-law, his family always considered me as part of the family; and his oldest daughter Ellen, who planned the memorial, specifically invited me to the service.
It was simply a glorious occasion, and I am still recovering from it. My three sons and daughter-in-law flew down to honor their uncle, and with my daughter Eileen, our family was well represented.
Showers and 50 degrees had been predicted, but instead, an overcast sky held back the rain while we drove down to the cathedral. I wore my black and white checked pant suit with my small, red L.L. Bean cloche. Our instructions were to be in the Rare Book Room, to the right as you enter the cathedral, by 10 a.m. Anxious for a parking spot, we arrived at 9:30 and parked beyond the construction in front.
The family group quickly grew. What fun to meet Gene's children, two daughters and a son, and their children and cousins. I carried two cameras, my new digital and a "throw-away."
Suddenly, about 10:45 a.m., former President Bill Clinton materialized with his Secret Service detail fending off people who got too near him. Immediately, a rippling excitement flowed around the room while he, grinning, stopped to autograph the elegant programs. I told him that I had voted for him.  (But I didn't mention how stupid I thought he had been by getting entangled with Monica you-know-who.) He grabbed my hand, leaned forward to within an inch of my left cheek, caught my eye, and exclaimed, "Thank you. THANK you.THANK YOU! I felt that he appreciated my vote that had elected him President of the United States. Of course, I was busy snapping my cameras; and most of my pictures turned out great.
At 11 am, the Leader signaled for our family group to proceed into the nave of the cathedral. My oldest son Tim escorted me. We paused momentarily, and I had a flashback to June 25, 1945 when I had been present at Abigail's and Gene's wedding at the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota. Then, I looked around at the 800  people gathered in the cathedral last Saturday, and I realized that I was the only person there who had also attended his wedding so many years ago. I felt this a special blessing.
During our slow walk down the aisle. I was stunned with the beautiful altar, the magnificence of the cathedral, the whole ambiance. I loved it! Actually, I was blown away. And I am just now recovering.
Six long rows of comfortable seats were reserved for the family in the right section upfront. Tim and I sat at the middle-aisle end of the fourth row.
One of Gene's nieces had  married Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary of our youth. Peter and his daughter performed several times during the service. The congregation joined them in several songs. So I sang with Peter Yarrow that morning.
The service lasted three minutes short of two hours, but it was so beautiful that I wanted it to go on and on and on. Several times I tried to think what kind of a comment Gene would make about this wonderful service.
  Three Catholic prelates sat with the Bishop of Washington, an Episcopalian, and the service was non-denominational. Of course, President Clinton stole the show with his tribute to Gene. But the other speakers were excellent, too.
The music was superb. "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Copeland electrified me, and I tingled. After the service,  we faced a chilling wind for about a block across cobblestones to the St. Albans gym for the reception. Many familiar politicians were schmoozing, reminiscing about the '68 campaign.
My sister Mary whispered to me," I think I'll join the Episcopalians. They know how to put on a great show!"
A former campaigner walked through the crowd handing out "McCarthy" buttons from that old campaign of thirty-eight years ago. A harpist performed background music of Irish songs and other favorites. I complimented her and added, to her amusement, that her "Barcarolle" by Hoffman was the first piece I had learned to play on the violin.
Bookmarks were handed out, and immediately became collectors' items. I recognized the familiar "McCarthy " above a dove with "Peace" solidly below, a Shah drawing used during the '68 campaign. Below this was Gene McCarthy's poem, "The Road from Emmaus."
 The words are simple but reading them slowly I felt Gene had given us another gift with: "I walked alone from Emmaus; met a friendly company upon the road, heard soft voices, felt the warmth of love and passed on." 
-- Catherine Foley Quigley

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