Crowds bid sad farewell to Kennedy

BOSTON: Crowds flocked Thursday to pay tearful last respects to late Democratic lion Edward Kennedy as his body lay in the oceanside library he built to honor his slain brother.

Thousands of people had lined up four abreast throughout the day outside the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston awaiting the arrival of the motorcade which bore Kennedy's remains from his home to the Massachusetts hub.

People in wheelchairs and on crutches were among those whose lives were touched in some way by the veteran senator and wanted to bid a final farewell after he died on Tuesday aged 77 from brain cancer.

Crowds cheered and clapped as the motorcade, carrying some 85 members of the Kennedy clan, passed Boston's historic Fanuiel Hall before arriving at the library for the public viewing.

A huge US flag was unfurled at City Hall and Mayor Thomas Menino rang a bell 47 times, marking each of the years that Kennedy served in the US Senate.

Office workers leaned out of windows and some even watched from rooftops.

The closed coffin, draped in a Stars and Stripes, was placed before a huge window overlooking the ocean, as mourners filed past and shook hands with his widow, Vicki, and other members of the family.

Kennedy's body began its final journey in Hyannis Port, the idyllic Atlantic resort where generations of the powerful Irish-American clan have taken their holidays.

His coffin, wrapped in the US flag which had flown over the US Congress until it closed for the summer recess, was placed solemnly in a hearse by a uniformed honor guard as Vicki, 55, looked on.

Hundreds had also turned out to watch the motorcade leave Kennedy's beloved Hyannis home, standing in silence as it passed by.

"I just want to wave to Teddy," cried one neighbor, breaking down in tears.

Three days of ceremonies will end Saturday with a funeral mass in Boston attended by President Barack Obama, then a burial in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington.

On Thursday and Friday, Kennedy's body was to lie in state at the library, with family and friends holding vigil until he leaves for the mass on Saturday. A private wake was also to be held late Friday.

Kennedy's death marks the end of a tumultuous life that included extraordinary personal tragedy, shocking scandals and political triumphs.

As the brother of slain president John F. Kennedy and presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy was seen as the last leader of his political clan. He will be buried alongside both brothers in Arlington.

"Not everybody agreed with the Kennedys' politics, but I think everyone appreciated their service and their spirit," said 74-year-old Nadine Basta, a Kennedy neighbor in Hyannis Port.

"We're very aware of the input he had to bring the men of violence around the table," said Gary McHenry, a 49-year-old dairy farmer from Northern Ireland who was on holiday in Boston, but came to follow the procession from the start.

"He played no small part in bringing Ireland to where it is today. It was probably pivotal. He was a man of peace. As an Irishman with a young family, to live in peaceful times it's something we're very grateful for."

Obama was to give a eulogy at Saturday's Mass at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica. He will not attend the private Arlington burial.

Obama received a major boost in his White House bid last year when he won Kennedy's endorsement. He described Kennedy on Wednesday as a "singular figure in American history."

Kennedy's death also brought together politicians from America's great political divide as Republican rivals and Democrats alike paid tribute to Kennedy's relentless campaigning for the causes of peace and social welfare.

Many thought Kennedy destined for the highest office, but his White House hopes were dashed after his name was tainted by scandal, drinking problems and a messy divorce.

The worst scandal occurred in 1969, when he drove off a bridge at Chappaquiddick in Massachusetts, killing a female companion Mary Jo Kopechne before fleeing the scene of the accident.

The scandal crippled his presidential hopes and he subsequently lost the Democratic party nomination to incumbent Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election.