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Massachusetts Remembers Sen. John McCain

John McCain
Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., pictured here on the campaign trail in 2008. McCain died August 25 of cancer at the age of 81.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Across the country, Americans are remembering Sen. John McCain. Massachusetts is no exception. WGBH News spoke with several people who knew the senator or admired him from afar.

Sen. John McCain's and Sen. Ted Kennedy's politics couldn't have been more different, but the two worked closely together and were dear friends, according to Kennedy's widow, Vicki Reggie Kennedy.

"They had different political philosophies. They were from different political parties, but they were both patriots," she said. When Kennedy passed away nine years ago, McCain spoke at his memorial service at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

Vicki Kennedy said the two men sought common ground wherever they could find it and worked together to make progress where they could agree.

"I think that John McCain and Ted Kennedy represent what the Senate has been at its best ... what it can be again, a place where men and women of good will can come together and address the great challenges facing our nation," Kennedy said. She suggested there is a hunger in this country for a return to civility in politics.

"I was struck when John just recently in the last year declared from the floor of the Senate that the proudest and most satisfying moments in his career were when he worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle," Kennedy said, adding that her late husband felt the exact same way.

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute is honoring McCain with a condolence book for anyone who wants to leave a message for his family. The institute also plans to broadcast McCain's funeral service and welcomes anyone who wants to pay their respects to the senator.

Retired Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO and until recently dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts, also recalled McCain transcending political party and even nationality. Stavridis said McCain inspired NATO troops from around Europe.

"You know, if you think about John McCain as a compass, he could look east and west. ... He could look across the political spectrum, right and left," Stavridis said. "But he always steered true north. He steered the course he believed in."

That's why, Stavridis said, he was able to work so closely with someone like Ted Kennedy — who he described as McCain's "political opposite," but a kindred spirit.

On a personal level, Stavridis said McCain was funny, clever, well-read and well-informed, but was always willing to admit when he was wrong.

Many American service members and veterans are also honoring McCain for his military service and his time as a prisoner of war during Vietnam.

"He honored the American flag. He served proudly. He suffered tremendously. I don't know any veteran that's not proud of him," Tom McCarthy, commander of Boston's VFW post, told WGBH News.

Dave Falvey, the commander of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, says the McCain paid an inspiring visit to Baghdad while Falvey was serving in Iraq.

"I already had a lot of respect for him at that time ... but just that he was there and that he cared enough to come out," Falvey said.

Both Falvey and McCarthy characterized his death as a huge loss for service members and veterans, who always felt McCain was looking out for them.

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