Friday, December 26, 2008

100-year-old woman recalls bringing up the Kennedy children

— The walls in her home hint at her remarkable journey: There are pictures with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan, a commemorative plaque from Robert Kennedy's kids, and a congratulatory note from Barack Obama.

For 44 years Ena "Mimi" Bernard was part of the closest thing America has to a royal family. She started at the bottom, or, in her case, the bottoms - wiping them, patting them, and threatening to swat them when their owners didn't follow the rules.

Now 100 years old, with her memory growing spotty, Bernard lives in a modest home, surrounded by mementos of those heady years as nanny for Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy, when she faithfully watched over their 11 children as if they were her own.

A black and white picture hanging on her living room wall shows Bernard watching with a guardian's eye as Bobby Kennedy Sr. pushed his daughter on a tricycle. There's the close up of Bernard at a dedication ceremony with two of the Kennedy children sitting in her lap, where they always were. There's the ceramic Dalmatian, at her door, a gift from Ethel Kennedy.

And there are four decades worth of tales as part of the Kennedy clan - at their homes in Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and the well-known family compound in Palm Beach.

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