Pam Kelley, a Kennedy casualty, passes away

Pam Kelley was 18 years old in the summer of 1973 when she accepted a fateful ride in a Jeep from a male member of the Kennedy family on Nantucket.

Pam Kelley was 18 years old in the summer of 1973 when she accepted a fateful ride in a Jeep from a male member of the Kennedy family on Nantucket.

Joseph P. Kennedy II flipped the Jeep on a sandy cutoff and Pam Kelley was thrown out and paralyzed from the waist down.

She would never walk again. She spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

Pam Kelley Burkley died Friday at the age of 65. She lived 25 years longer than the doctors had predicted back in 1973.

She is survived by, among others, a 31-year-old daughter and two grandsons.

The accident had no adverse impact on Joe Kennedy’s life and career, of course. For crippling Pam Kelley, he had to appear before a local judge who had graduated from Harvard with his uncle and namesake Joseph Kennedy Jr., a judge who like Joe’s father Bobby
had once worked in Washington for Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.

In between sporadic attendance at a string of second- and third-tier colleges, Joe was accompanied to court by his mother Ethel and his uncle Ted.

The senator was making his own first appearance in a state courtroom since pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after killing Mary Jo Kopechne in his own motor-vehicle accident four years earlier on Martha’s Vineyard.

For putting Pam Kelley in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, the family-retainer judge fined Joe Kennedy $100.

That’s the Kennedy M.O. They all live their lives like Tom and Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby.”

“They were careless people,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote. “They smashed up things and creatures and retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Pam Kelley

The other people cleaned up this mess by cutting Pam Kelley a check for $848,684.01, after which the Kennedys expected her to go away and not bother them again.

Like Marilyn Monroe and Mary Jo Kopechne, Pam was just more collateral damage in the family’s Hundred Years War against women.

Joe the Jeep Man went on to serve six forgettable terms in Congress in the seat his uncle Jack had once held.

He’s since made millions from his “nonprofit,” put his second wife on the payroll and this year spent millions more futilely trying to get his son and namesake, Joseph III, who himself served four lackluster terms in Congress, elected to the Senate over the even more lackluster
septuagenarian incumbent, Sen. Ed Markey.

It was not to be. This January, for the first time since 1962, and only the second time since 1946, no member of the wretched Kennedy family will be serving in Congress. (Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana doesn’t count. He has a brain, and is unrelated.)

Meanwhile, Pam Kelley was living out her life in a wheelchair. She married, had a daughter, battled assorted demons and eventually became an executive with a nonprofit agency that promoted the rights of the disabled.

“What happened to me stinks,” she told one interviewer. “But I made something decent out of it.”

I got a call from Pam around the time Joe decided to run for governor of Massachusetts in 1998. There was a problem, though — the family’s War on Women had flared up yet again, with Joe’s brother Michael and his under-aged babysitter and assorted other related scandals.

Pam was getting older, more frail, and she needed some work done on her house so she could still get around in her wheelchair. She’d called multi-millionaire Joe and, well, you know how concerned the Kennedys are with the needs of their victims …

Anyway, I began making inquiries, and things got straightened out pretty fast.

Speaking of the Kennedys, today is the 57th anniversary of the day that changed America forever — the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.

JFK wasn’t much of a president, and he was by most accounts a rather unpleasant human being.

Despite all that, though, when he was murdered something snapped in the American psyche, and nothing has ever been the same since.

Politics disintegrated into the disaster we have today — a situation in which modern Democrats are closer, ideologically, to Lee Harvey Oswald, his Communist assassin, than they are to the tax-cutting cold warrior JFK.

The family has suffered through a lot more tragedy in these 57 years. But the fact is, the people closest to the Kennedys have suffered even more, as Pam Kelley Burkley, among so many others, could have told you.

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