PLYMOUTH – A mother who lost her daughter in a well-publicized automobile accident in Massachusetts nearly 39 years ago was remembered Saturday as a caring woman who loved talking, drinking coffee and making pancakes for breakfast.
Gwen L. Kopechne, 89, died on Dec. 20 at the Valley Crest Nursing Home in Plains Township.
A small gathering of family and friends attended a Memorial Mass in her honor at All Saints Church in Plymouth.
Family photographs pasted on a board were placed near the altar, and two pictures showing Gwen, her late husband, Joseph, and their only daughter, Mary Jo, were placed on a table beneath a Pastoral candle.
Gwen was laid to rest in St. Vincent’s Cemetery in Larksville next to her husband and Mary Jo, whose life immortalized the family when she was killed in the accident on Chappaquiddick Island on July 19, 1969.
The 28-year-old woman and Democratic campaign worker was a passenger in a car driven by U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Kennedy was driving the young woman from a party when he drove off a bridge and into a pond. Kennedy escaped with minor injuries but Mary Jo was killed.
Circumstances surrounding the accident and events that followed evolved into a cloud of suspicion that continues today.
The accident has been the subject of many books, documentaries and an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has its Chappaquiddick investigative files online.
The tragic event on Chappaquiddick or Kennedy wasn’t mentioned during the memorial service.
Instead, family paid homage to Gwen, who was born in Edwardsville on June 8, 1918, and grew up during the Depression, falling in love and marrying her high school sweetheart, Joseph.
Gwen and Joseph lived the American dream and devoted their lives to Mary Jo, their family said.
After Mary Jo’s death, Gwen and Joseph built a home in Swiftwater where they lived for nearly 30 years.
A homemaker, Gwen loved sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee, talking to people and making pancakes for breakfast for family who stayed the night.
What made Gwen a strong woman was her strength to learn and not dwell on the past, her family said.