Abraham A. Ribicoff, the powerful and popular governor of Connecticut, congressman and U.S. senator who served as secretary of health, education and welfare under John F. Kennedy, the president he helped elect, died Sunday at the Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale in the Bronx. He was 87 and had homes in Manhattan and Cornwall Bridge, Conn.

Ribicoff, who spent nearly half a century in public service before retiring in 1981, had Alzheimer's disease and had been at the Riverdale home for several weeks. His wife, Lois, who is known as Casey, said that the cause of death was heart failure. Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue at 65th Street in Manhattan.Ribicoff, who was one of the best vote getters in Connecticut history, had been a close Kennedy friend and political ally since 1948, when both were young congressmen from neighboring New England states. Early on, he visualized Kennedy as a formidable national figure and worked hard to see that he achieved the presidency. He nominated Kennedy for vice president in 1956; he was the convention floor manager for his successful race for the presidential nomination in 1960, and he was the first man named to the Kennedy Cabinet.

Sixteen months after becoming secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Ribicoff returned to Connecticut and ran for the Senate in 1962, defeating the Republican candidate, Rep. Horace Seely-Brown Jr. He remained a liberal stalwart in the chamber for 18 years.