East Texan inspired by friend, Ted Kennedy

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

CHEROKEE COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Joanna Reagan became a member of Senator Ted Kennedy's staff in 1972, working with Senate sub-committees and working as his scheduler until she retired in 1986.

"This is a lovely letter he sent to me when I was elected President of the local Cherokee County Democrats," said Reagan.

This Reagan is now President-elect of Texas Democratic Women. She says the letter is her most cherished keepsake.

"He said, 'I like a president I can agree with,'" Reagan told me, laughing. "His note at the bottom is well done, 'You can do anything.'"

From photos to paintings, Joanna Reagan's home is filled with mementos from a life she says was dedicated to public service.

"It was an extraordinary life to watch unfold with all the challenges and all the great blessings," said Reagan. "He is a "the glass is half full" person."

For years, Reagan worked with the senator she describes as smart and polite.

"If you walked across the street with him, he always took your elbow," said Reagan.

She says he was a passionate lawmaker - from civil rights, voting rights and labor issues to health care reform.

"The senator vowed after the first defeat of health care that he would do his best to take care of the most egregious problems for families," said Reagan.

She has kept in touch since retiring. She saw him last year campaigning for Obama down in San Marcos. She says she will be there when he's laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

"When you lose a good friend, you need to be there," she said. "He viewed his staff as part of his extended family."

To borrow words from the senator himself..."it's a dream and legacy she hopes will never die."

"We'll work hard for that dream, and that is our greatest hope, and that's how we want to remember him: hopeful, happy and the "lion of the senate," said Reagan.

One of Senator Kennedy's chamber colleagues, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison released a statement, saying, "While Kennedy and I disagreed on many issues, we were strong allies in the fight against cancer. The Kennedy-Hutchison Cancer Research Bill is a tribute to his determination that the battle against this dreaded disease continue. Cancer may have claimed his life; it did not dampen his spirit or his will."

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