Businessman says he's one of many Kerry Kennedy cited by Clinton

September 23, 1993|By Orlando Sentinel

TITUSVILLE, Fla. -- While the nation was learning of the plight of Kerry Kennedy, the Titusville man was doing what small-business people do best.

He was working hard, putting up wallpaper at his store, Badcock Home Furnishing Center on Main Street.

"I'm not really that unique," said Mr. Kennedy, whose face was smudged with wallpaper paste late yesterday.

President Clinton named Mr. Kennedy last night in a televised address that included an anecdote about how the high cost of medical coverage had caused the owner of the small furniture store to drop coverage for his parents. They founded the store 34 years ago.

"The same thing has happened to others," Mr. Kennedy said. "I'm the same old sob story."

Mr. Kennedy's improbable move into the spotlight started when he was introduced to Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala in March at a local small-business gathering organized by Rep. Jim Bacchus, D-Fla., according to Mr. Bacchus' chief of staff, Linda Hennessee.

"We had a brown-bag luncheon in the center of town, and Secretary Shalala walked door-to-door talking to employees," Ms. Hennessee said.

Ms. Shalala heard Mr. Kennedy's story and told it to Mr. Clinton.

"I told them I wanted to assist in some type of solution," Mr. Kennedy said. "I wasn't just complaining. I was trying to search for solutions, too."

Mr. Kennedy's father, William, turned 65 this year and is now covered by Medicare. His mother, Tina, 64, picked up coverage on her own.

One of the problems the younger Mr. Kennedy faced in searching for insurance was that he wanted costly maternity coverage for his wife, but was told it had to cover all his female employees, including his mother.

That made it unaffordable.

Tina Kennedy said she and her husband are in good health.

She still works at the store occasionally to assist her son. "I help out, but I don't get a fee."

"We're very proud of our son," she added.

Kerry Kennedy's wife, Janine, said she and her 6-year-old daughter are happy about his new fame.

"I'm very proud of him. He stands up for what he believes," she said.

Mr. Kennedy said he paused in his work last night long enough to hear the president mention his name. Then he took the phone off the hook.

lTC Before returning to his late-night task of wallpapering the store, Mr. Kennedy apologized for the hot temperatures inside.

"We've got to pay our insurance," he said. "So we turn off the air."

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