Melody Miller, long-time Kennedy staffer passed away on Election Day last year in her home at the age of 77. She served on Senator Kennedy’s staff for 37 years. Alum Mary Paris shares a reflection on Melody below.
Melody was just 18 years old when she first met President Kennedy at the White House. The meeting happened because Congressman Joseph Montoya, a Democrat from New Mexico whom Melody volunteered for on weekends, forwarded a clipping to the President’s office from the local paper. The article told how she had sculpted a bust of the President’s likeness in art class and when it accidentally fell and shattered, she had painstakingly restored it. That article found its way to the President’s desk and after reading it, he asked to meet her. Melody told him she wanted to volunteer to work on his 1964 re-election campaign. “Absolutely,” was his immediate reply. That day, the President inspired her to work in public service and for his brothers.
Sadly, she never got to work on his campaign, but did work as a volunteer for Mrs. Kennedy sorting out gifts that mourners had mailed to the President’s children and filing the correspondence that came in. And so began her long relationship with the Kennedy Family.
When Melody graduated from Penn State in 1967, she went to work for Senator Kennedy’s brother, Robert. When he was assassinated, Melody was the only person from his staff to join the Senator’s office. Melody was devoted to the Senator and his family. His nieces and nephews always called Melody when they needed something or just for advice even after she retired in 2005.
Melody and I started chatting when I would be working on press feeds from California during the 1980 presidential campaign. We found that we shared many things, an admiration and respect for the Senator and his family, love of politics, the Rolling Stones, beautiful gardens and more. Melody adopted me as her honorary sister. I was so happy when she met her kindred spirit and love of her life, Bill Wilson. She always told me she would retire when the Senator did, but Bill convinced her otherwise and they traveled extensively.
I shared Thanksgivings and Christmases with them at their lovely home and later just with her at mine. When my husband moved to DC to marry me, Melody was his first friend. She threw us an engagement dinner and even appointed herself official photographer at our wedding. She gave us a wonderful album to remember the day.
We were close for forty plus years. I wish I could tell you stories of all of the wonderful things she did for us, talks and times together. We talked on the phone for hours. The phrase “may you live in interesting times” applies to Melody as she would always remind me how lucky we were to have had the life we had. We met most if not all of our heroes and all the wonderful opportunities we had thanks to our time working for the Kennedys. I definitely met mine when I met Melody.
Melody was my sister, my best friend and my biggest cheerleader. She always wanted to be a mother but never had children, so she adopted people (and pets!) as her honorary children. She went to their graduations, weddings and the births of their children. At her remembrance recently, Patrick Kennedy, Tim Shriver, former EMK and RFK staff, interns and friends from the press told stories of their experiences and love for Melody.
She not only took care of everyone in the extended Kennedy Family, she had time to take care of her family, friends, adoptees, animals and even strangers. They say, you can choose your friends, but not your family I know that that’s not true as Melody chose to adopt me as her honorary sister. It was an incredible honor, and a special privilege.