Patrick Kennedy and the Jersey Girl

Two years ago, Patrick­ Kennedy, a troubled scion­ of America’s greatest­ political­ dynasty,­ walked into an Atlantic City ballroom­ and met a local schoolteacher who would become his wife. Now he’s reinventing­ himself—while living ­in his in-laws’ house in Absecon.­ An unconventional­ love story.

FOR PATRICK, THE LOSS OF HIS SISTER has only reinforced his decision to reinvent his life with Amy, on a new seashore. Life is short. Love and family are what matters. You find them wherever and however you can, and cling to them. “At the end of my dad’s life,” Patrick says, “it wasn’t his legacy or the laws he passed that kept him company when he was sitting at the end of the porch, looking out over the ocean. It was his kids. And that was seared into me.”

He tears up easily when talking about his father. One afternoon we sit in the near-empty Pirate’s Den, a cozy restaurant a block from the north end of Brigantine, where the windswept streets give way to two miles of sand.

For most of Ted Kennedy’s life, he didn’t understand his son’s need to speak publicly about his depression and addiction. “I grew up in a real ‘snap out of it’ family,” Patrick says. “You pull yourself up by the bootstraps and don’t do anything shameful. I got the message early on: You don’t want it to be ‘Oh, we need to take care of Patrick’ the way people said about my mom, ‘Oh, we need to take care of Joan.’ If I needed help, it wasn’t that I needed help, but that it was a public-relations crisis.”

It was only when Patrick’s work in Congress to support mental health parity began to gain traction that his dad, he says, “got it.” Ted had “a political awakening that I was onto something really big politically in my own right, and he started looking at me differently.” That’s why the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, the last legislation Patrick and his dad accomplished together in Washington, is so important to him. It’s also why he is now becoming so vocal about how few of the protections the bill guaranteed have actually been put into place, because of health insurance politics.

He says he has no interest in ever returning to elected office, though some in New Jersey wish he would. “If he wants to be in politics, he’ll be a force wherever he is,” says Rob Andrews. “But I think he is finding a new definition of success in his life.”

As he gains more distance from his father’s life and death, it’s the nonpolitical things that stay with Patrick Kennedy. The only major possession he has with him in New Jersey is hidden under a tarp. It’s a metallic green 1972 Pontiac GTO convertible with a white top, which he bought during his wedding reception. In the early ’70s, California Senator John Tunney and Ted Kennedy, best friends, bought twin GTOs; Teddy’s was blue and is long gone, but Tunney gave his to his son, Mark, who told Patrick he could no longer drive such a car and was going to sell it on Craigslist. Patrick immediately offered to buy it.

When it’s warm out—and sometimes even when it’s not—he likes to drive it around, alone or with Amy. It reminds him of his dad, and his early life in Cape Cod, when Ted’s GTO was always parked in the front driveway and he would jump into it and drive away. It’s also perfect for Patrick’s new persona—a Jersey muscle car, like something out of a Springsteen song. “When I drive it around,” he laughs, “people don’t care it’s me. They look at the car, yell, ‘All right!,’ and give me the big thumbs-up.”


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  • AWomanWithMorals

    He has a history of multiple drug addictions, alcohol addiction, a DUI, assaulting a female security guard and allegedly helped to cover up a rape. She’s a teacher who’s a single mom living with her parents in South Jersey. To a rational woman in her situation a man like him would be untouchable, especially because she has a young daughter. But he’s a Kennedy who saw an attractive woman 12 years his junior and as history has shown, the Kennedy clan always gets what they want. If he weren’t a Kennedy do you think he would have had a chance with her? Her daughter now gets to say that her step father’s a Kennedy instead of a criminal. Good job Amy!! By the way, my point is really brought home by her stating that she teaches history and was unaware of who he was. Really??

  • Pratt

    First, the comment above is insightful and true. We would like to add that there was so much left out of this piece that the reporter should be fired. Kennedy was involved with a friend of ours and he almost used and emotionally destroyed her. We wish someone tell the truth about him, talk about crimes…wait until the rest comes out, but she has made her deal with the devil–doubt she loves him so maybe they will learn how it feels to get

  • Gil

    Obviously, the writer did not know Kennedy. Another bought and paid for piece. Didn’t her wedding dress look a little tight?? Hard to believe she is barely showing now. I’m sure big bro Teddy + cousins laughed all the way to the alter. Patrick marries a NJ, waitress, school teacher, divorced with a child. Teddy marries a single, well bred Psychiatrist +read what they said about Vickie who had a pretty good CV–can just imagine what they think about this latest deal that Kennedy has done.But he plotted this out long before Dad’s passing.Kennedy tried this same thing in ’08-woman, divorced, little boy, separated, home in MD but she canned him. What about the other one we saw for so long- bet she is the one who got away– thank God for her. What a joke-AA-yeah we are hearing all those amends! And, we see you have not been home by 7:00 every night. Rem our trist in LA 2009, ask Mark or the PC girls, the coke helped if u no what we mean!Did you get to move in and ditch your secret 24hr shadowers? Read Bio about Joan to see Amy’s future except Patrick is…

  • amy

    If she had any common sense, instead of a gold-digging agenda, there is no way this couple would have fallen in “love”. She should have thought about her young daughter before marrying him. As the writer above pointed out, this man is now her step-father. Yes, he may have served in Congress but there’s no way he would have been in the position he was in if he wasn’t a Kennedy. Furthermore, there’s no way she would have married him if he wasn’t a Kennedy. Living in the same area Amy lives in I know first-hand that there are plenty of bachelors with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, psychotic disorders and criminal histories that are willing to marry an attractive, young woman like herself. Then again, maybe there’s something in him that she sees that we don’t see. Maybe she married him for his good looks or his family morals. She’ll have plenty of time to analyze their relationship while living in their new million dollar home in Brigantine Bay!!

    • MaryKate

      As I said below, I have similar issues to his but it seems on a smaller scale. I’m on the west coast, I only know who he is because of his disease(s) and his advocacy for people like us. Not knowing much about the Kennedy’s (other than his dad) I have empathy for him.

      I am not a sensible young woman – but I have enough sense not to chance going near him and giving birth to the second coming of Joan Kennedy.

      Unless this woman is a saint, I don’t see this ending well.

  • Alison

    You don’t even really know these two people .. From your comments sounds like you are perfect and can’t be happy for 2 people that have respect, admiration and LOVE between them. they are doing so good for people that have brain injurys, addictions , and mental problems …what are you doing ? Apparently you didn’t read that only positive comments welcome….keep living in your negative world …karma

  • MaryKate

    I have depression and anxiety disorder – likely bipolar II where in the anxiety is the mania. I have no insurance right know to get an official diagnosis.

    Two things struck me.

    1). I have never been addicted to anything other than maybe those maniacal shopping sprees

    2). If I went off my anti-depressants and xanax all hell would break loose.

    wait one more…

    3). I wouldn’t want to propagate his DNA which I gather to be worse than my own issues – to an innocent child. How can Amy live with doing that to her baby son?

  • Joseph’s Newbury St.Nov 1982,

    Why did J Seward Johnson, the noted Sculptor, re-name Beauty of Time and Space to Family Secrets?

  • Jean

    I actually thought he was my friend Patrick Kennedy but he isn’t. Doesn’t look like him at all. The comments I have read, well I would have been hard pressed to not comment on how bias things are on the surface of any ordeals people endure. We only get to read or hear ‘melted versions’ of things that occur or have happened. I was sorry in this instance he is not my friend Patrick, son of Annaliese. And quite right,, Patricks mother was a 3/4th generation german. So maybe this couple are happy. Best to them