By Nancy Dutton
Mary Anne may have been – likely was – the oldest living member of the large John F. Kennedy family clan and thus leaves a giant hole. She was born in Chicago, youngest of several sisters, graduated from high school at 16, and began immediately working for Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy and the Merchandise Mart. Two years later, Kennedy assigned her to the new Mart Director, Sargent Shriver. In 1956 she and Sarge worked on JFK bid for the Vice Presidency, and in 1959 they left to work on the JFK Presidential Campaign. She moved to Washington and stayed with Sarge… as his ‘Ex Sec’ to create and found the Peace Corps. Then they took on (simultaneously) the founding and directing of President Johnson’s War on Poverty (Head Start, the Job Corps, Vista, Upward Bound…the Office of Economic Opportunity), and finally with Sarge at the US Embassy in Paris. Upon their return to the US in 1970, Mary Ann went to work with Bill Blair and Roger Stevens opening and operating The John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts.
After three decades of a Kennedy Family politician and activist, she became a consultant. During President Carter’s Administration, she worked on various White House committees and commissions. In the 1980s, she moved to the National Arboretum where she eventually was executive director of the world renowned Bonsai Center foundation. She worked on many Kennedy Family not-for-profits and events and was known and appreciated by all the family. Her most recent philanthropist efforts were on behalf of the Shriver Center on Poverty Law in Chicago.
On the personal side, Mary Ann was always a lady – well-dressed, well-groomed and well-mannered, never complained and rarely criticized. And any memories of her would be incomplete (at the risk of being politically incorrect) without noting that the beautiful young woman grew into a spectacular senior (a politically correct word, but one that Mary Ann avoided) as the photo taken this week clearly shows. She was always well read, well-traveled, well-spoken — and a gourmet – both food and Washington restaurants where the chefs often knew her. (We were planning a visit to Jose Andres’ new FISH.) She could also be strong willed and opinionated – she knew what she wanted. She will be missed…
Postscript: Those of us who were around in the early days of Peace Corps HQ knew Mary Ann and her famous ‘lock’ on Sarge. No one got to see the Director of the Peace Corps without having to pass by Mary Ann’s desk and her approval. She was a real beauty and a lovely woman. — JC