Dave Powers, the Boston Irishman who was John F. Kennedy's famously devoted aide every step of the way to the White House and served after JFK's assassination as the keeper of the Camelot legend, died Friday at 85.
Powers came to be known as Kennedy's "coatholder" and "Sancho Panza" because he spent his life tending to JFK's career, his widow and children, and finally his legacy, as curator of the John F. Kennedy Library museum."Jack loved Dave Powers like a brother, and so did all of us in the Kennedy family. Jack couldn't have had the New Frontier without him, and we will miss him very much," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said in a statement.
The man who called himself "just a newsboy who met a president" had been sought out by the wealthy Kennedys in the early days of JFK's political career because he was closely connected to Boston's blue-collar Irish-American families.
The child of Irish immigrants, Powers had an Irish-Catholic upbringing in the Charlestown section of Boston. He hawked news-papers on the waterfront, spent Sundays at the church assisting at five Masses, and knew everyone in the neighborhood.
Because of that, a campaign worker directed Kennedy to Powers' door when the future president was campaigning for Congress in 1946. Powers had been supporting the rival candidate, but he was so taken by the young Kennedy that he changed camps forever.
Powers initiated JFK into the rough and tumble of Boston campaigning and in how to deal with the ordinary folk of the city. At one rally, he persuaded Kennedy to improve the impact of a high-toned speech by emphasizing that his parents were natives of the district.