I just learned that one of my most beloved mentors, Ms. Melody Miller died last year. Today would have been her 78th birthday. Melody Miller was one of my mentors in the office of Senator Ted Kennedy (Best. Senator. Ever.)
When I was a beardless youth of 17.5, from 1974-76, I interned in Senator Kennedy's mailroom 2.5 days a week. Ms. Miller was our receptionist, who eventually worked her way up to be Chief of Staff by the time Sen. Kennedy died in 2009. There were three hour-long network specials on Sen. Kennedy's death, including one on CBS featuring Ms. Miller.
It was Ms. Melody Miller taught me how to answer a telephone. I would substitute for her when she was at lunch, fielding some of the numerous telephone calls on the huge Call Directortelephone at the receptionist desk, constantly ringing and blinking, with dozens of telephone lines and buttons, with a huge cable connecting it to the world over AT&T's phone system, a telephone as big as the one that once sat on President Lyndon Johnson's desk. We'd answer by the third ring, always conscious that our constituents and other callers ad visitor appreciated a friendly voice, accompanied by a smile. We'd talk while I waited for errands and other work assignments.
Ms. Miller's effervescent personality reminded me of what Sir Winston Spencer Church said about Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "meeting [her] was like opening your first bottle of champagne. Knowing [her] was like drinking it."
My EMK office nickname was "Fast Eddie." It was Ms. Melody Miller who gave me my nickname, based upon the rapidity with which I could walk and run errands around Capitol Hill, despite my juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes walking a mile or two around the Capitol campus. Unlike other lallygagging college interns, I always swiftly returned to the mailroom, where I shared what Lincoln would call "public opinion baths," autopenning Ted Kennedy signaures on legislative correspondence and reading and sorting some of the 2000+ letters per day that Senator Kennedy received, and later working for the late incomparable staffers Mary Murtagh, on ending pelagic whaling, or for Susan Reilly-Katz on casework and grants.
Ms. Melody Miller taught me about politics, love, life, the lore of the United States Senate, and the Kennedy family. She was kind and generous, with cool friends (like the late Hal Holbrook) -- she once gave another intern and I (Chris from the University of Santa Clara in California) tickets to see Hal Holbrook perform as Mark Twain at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), where we had V.I.P. box seats looking right out upon the stage.
On Facebook in 2020, Ms. Miller recalled her 1975 lunch meeting with Senator Joe Biden, who pondered resigning from the Senate to take care of his boys, who lost their mother and sister in a tragic truck-car wreck. Meeting in the cafeteria in the basement of the Dirksen Senate Building, Ms. Miller and a former Kennedy staffer working for Senator Biden, helped persuade Joe Biden to stay the course and stay in the Senate. Thank God!
Like me, Ms. Miller was drawn to public service by the example of John F. Kennedy, who was assasinated while she was a college student and when I was six years old.
Ms. Miller worked for the Kennedy family for some 40 years, and was the last person to turn off the lights in RFK's office. She was a light in my life, and others.
I miss her.
More on EMK here: https://cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2009/08/ted-kennedy-appreciation-by-ed-slavin.html and here: https://cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2022/08/feast-of-saint-augustine-august-28-1974.html
From The New York Times and The Washington Post: