John Kerry - Personal Life and Background

Personal Life and Background

Kerry is the child of Richard Kerry (1915–2000), a Foreign Service Officer and an attorney for the Bureau of United Nations Affairs, and Rosemary Forbes Kerry (1913–2002), a World War II nurse and member of the wealthy Forbes family. Rosemary was born in Paris, France, to American parents. Kerry has three siblings: two sisters, Diana (born in 1947) and Margerie (aka Peggy; born in 1941), and a brother, Cameron (born in 1950), Cameron Kerry was picked to be President Barack Obama's general counsel of the Commerce Department. One of Kerry's maternal great-great-grandfathers was Robert Charles Winthrop, the 22nd Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives.

Kerry was raised as a Roman Catholic by his Catholic father and Episcopalian mother. As a child, Kerry served as an altar boy. Although the extended family enjoyed a great fortune, Kerry's parents themselves were upper-middle class; a wealthy great aunt paid for Kerry to attend elite schools in Europe and New England. Kerry spent his summers at the Forbes family estate in Brittany, and there, he enjoyed a more opulent lifestyle than he had previously known in Massachusetts.

It was discovered in 2003 by Felix Gundacker, a genealogist working with The Boston Globe, that Kerry's paternal grandparents, who had been born "Fritz Kohn" and "Ida Löwe" in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, changed their names to "Frederick and Ida Kerry" in 1900 and converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism in 1901 or 1902. Fritz' elder brother Otto had earlier, in 1887 or 1896, also embraced Catholicism. The "Kerry" name, widely misinterpreted as indicative of Irish heritage, was reputedly selected arbitrarily: "According to family legend, Fritz and another family member opened an atlas at random and dropped a pencil on a map. It fell on County Kerry in Ireland, and thus a name was chosen. " Leaving their hometown Mödling, a suburb of Vienna where they had lived since 1896, Fred and Ida, together with their son Eric, emigrated to the United States in 1905, living at first in Chicago and eventually moving to Brookline, Massachusetts, by 1915.

The village where Fritz Kohn was born in 1873 was at that time known as Bennisch and was a part of Silesia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but is today known as Horní Benešov in the Czech Republic. After learning of his ancestral connection with their village, the mayor and citizens sent congratulatory correspondence to John Kerry with regard to his political pursuits.

For a time, Fred Kerry was a prosperous and successful shoe merchant, and Ida and two of the children — Richard (who would become the father of John Kerry) and Mildred — were able to afford to travel to Europe in the autumn of 1921, returning on October 21. A few weeks later, on November 15, Fred Kerry filed a will leaving everything to Ida and then, on November 23, walked into a washroom of the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a handgun. The suicide was front-page news in all of the Boston newspapers, reporting at the time that the motive was severe asthma and related health problems, but modern reports cite family sources saying that the motive was financial trouble: "He had made three fortunes and when he had lost the third fortune, he couldn't face it anymore", according to granddaughter Nancy Stockslager.

John Kerry has said that although he knew his paternal grandfather had come from Austria, he did not know until informed by The Boston Globe on the basis of their genealogical research that Fred Kerry had changed his name from "Fritz Kohn" and had been born Jewish, nor that his great-uncle and great-aunt, Ida Kerry's brother Otto and sister Jenni, died in Nazi concentration camps.

On his mother's side, the Forbes name can be traced back to Thomas Dudley of the Dudley-Winthrop family who landed in Salem, Massachusetts, on June 14, 1630, with his daughter, poet Anne Dudley Bradstreet, and others aboard the Arbella.

Kerry is 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall, enjoys surfing and windsurfing, as well as ice hockey, hunting and playing bass guitar. According to an interview he gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 2004, Kerry's favorite album is Abbey Road and he is a fan of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, as well as of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Buffett. He never liked heavy metal. During his 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry used Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" as one of his campaign songs. Later he would adopt U2's "Beautiful Day" as his official campaign song.

Kerry is described by Sports Illustrated, among others, as an "avid cyclist", primarily riding on a road bike. Prior to his Presidential bid, Kerry was known to have participated in several long-distance rides (centuries). Even during his many campaigns, he was reported to have visited bicycle stores in both his home state and elsewhere. His staff requested recumbent stationary bikes for his hotel rooms.

Kerry appeared in a cameo as himself on the April 30, 1992, episode of the hit television sitcom Cheers, in the episode, "Bar Wars VI: This Time It's For Real. "

In 2003, Kerry was diagnosed with and successfully treated for prostate cancer.

During the 2012 Obama reelection campaign, Kerry participated in one on one debate prep with the president, impersonating the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

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