WASHINGTON -- The Secret Service shoos everyone to the other side of the street, but the curious, the true-believers and the celebrity-struck cluster 50 strong for the privilege of watching John F. Kerry and his wife get into a car.
They emerge from the fundraiser. Most in the crowd shout, "Senator Kerry -- over here!" The Democratic nominee saunters over to shake some hands. A few let loose with, "Teresa! Teresa!"
Teresa Heinz Kerry is not feeling well. She will discard the next day's schedule to stay at her Washington home with a cold that hangs on for a month. But with a closing flourish before she takes to her sickbed, the 65-year-old Heinz Kerry, thick, auburn hair dipping slightly over one eye, takes an exaggerated, gallant bow, a hand across her midriff, an arm extended as if she has just arrived in some Renaissance court to deliver papers of state.
She smiles broadly and says nothing.
It is a study in the contradictions of Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes-Ferreira Heinz Kerry: a woman of measured words and the grand gesture.
Famously, she is outspoken, a trait she now advises interviewers is rarely pointed out in a man but seems a cause of fascination when it comes to women. Equally so, she is generous: her endowments and foundation have handed out millions, yet she has a managerial style that makes clear she is looking for results, not praise.
"I don't think she's really easy to understand even for those of us who know her well, but I say that with tremendous respect," said Elsie Hillman, onetime Republican National Committee woman, and one of the elder stateswomen in Pennsylvania's distinctively moderate Republican Party.
Heinz Kerry says the key to grasping her candor, her style, as it were, is to understand her as an immigrant who grew up under one dictatorship and lost the family home to another. It is not, she says, as simple a matter as speaking her mind.
"Instead of saying 'speaking my mind,' I'd say 'enjoying the freedom,'" she says. "If you say speaking your mind it can sound like I'm coming out to make a point. But if you say enjoying your freedom it means I can say something without going to jail or losing a job. I think that's sometimes what the press misses when they say, 'She's too frank, or she's too honest.' I'm enjoying that. I'm enjoying the freedom."
Born in Mozambique, her Portuguese passport was stamped "second class." This was the level of citizenship assigned to someone born outside Europe. It was, for this daughter of a doctor, a childhood now impossible amid the turmoil of the African continent. They were not especially rich by American standards, but there were servants, boarding schools and a big, rambling house near the water in the capital, then called Laurenco Marques.
"I played piano, and climbed trees a lot, ate fruit from the trees, hanging from the trees," she says. "Broke my wrist several times. There are a lot of pictures of me with a broken wrist.
"Africa taught me most of the values I have: very simple, very honest."
As a young woman, she studied in South Africa, then Switzerland, and, 42 years ago, met a young man on a tennis court in Geneva. His name was Henry John Heinz III. She'd seen the name on ketchup bottles.
That this young bride who spoke five languages was in love with the young John Heinz, was clear to Elsie Hillman, Republican leader in Western Pennsylvania and John Heinz's political mentor. She threw a party for the couple when John brought his new wife home to Fox Chapel.
"Actually she seemed quiet. She's still sort of fairly quiet," Hillman remembers. "She didn't seem impassioned about anything at the time. She sort of grew with the role, as did he."
When Teresa Heinz reached Washington 33 years ago, the young wife of an inexhaustibly wealthy Pittsburgh heir, U.S. Rep. H. John Heinz III, a succession of stories promptly caricatured her as the slightly zany congressional wife who veered off the Republican party line.
A Washington Post interview quoted her: "I don't trust Nixon." The New York Daily News rushed in with a follow up, telling of how she campaigned for her husband in his suburban Pittsburgh district and "bawled out one group as being 'a bunch of bigots.' She challenged a women's gathering to 'get off their tails' and become politically 'aware' and active."
In a Watergate-era Washington, journalists relished the guaranteed splash of a political wife bound to go off script. Teresa Heinz, in America for less than a decade and still operating under the premise that she was in a place where open expression was a reasonable thing, was clearly taken aback by her treatment.
"The article gives the impression that I support Sen. McGovern because I am quoted as saying 'I hope he can get things together.' This is wrong," she wrote to the editor of The Pittsburgh Press in September 1972. "What I said privately after the affair to the reporter, in trying to decline to discuss campaigns and candidates, was simply that Sen. McGovern's campaign appeared to be in disarray and I hope he could get things together so that the real differences between the two men would be in focus."
Such long explanations soon grew tiresome. Teresa Heinz dropped off the interview circuit and added a layer of caution to her comments.
"What I realized is what you say isn't necessarily the way it comes out," she said.
Her enthusiasm for attention curbed, she would continue with a variety of causes, but rarely did she go it alone. A decade later, on the board of Peace Links, a group of congressional wives hoping to stem the arms race, Teresa Heinz attracted notice, but she was content to let Betty Bumpers, wife of a Democratic senator, do the talking.
The real Teresa Heinz Kerry is, depending on the given interview, either cautious, almost elliptical in her expressions, or brutally forthright and impolitic.
One of the most famous tongue-holdings in the Heinz senate career came in 1983 when a fellow Republican, Sen. Jeremiah Denton of Alabama, took to the Senate floor to denounce Peace Links for "giving comfort" to the Soviet Union.
"On the staff, we were apoplectic," said Cliff Shannon, a former Heinz staff member.
Betty Bumpers was curt and unambiguous: "We're just not going to tolerate that kind of intimidation," she declared. Teresa Heinz described Denton as "a nice man and I don't think he meant to question our integrity."
The irony of the dispute was that Teresa Heinz had come to despise communism with a particular poignancy. The home on which she was raised in Mozambique, an idyllic, rambling place where she climbed trees and watched the Indian Ocean, was taken from the Simoes-Ferreira family by the Marxist regime that seized power after the Portuguese pulled out. Her father and mother, like thousands of others, simply fled.
"They lost everything," Heinz Kerry says. "I know how communists work. And you don't want to be there. I know how socialists think: they mean very well, but generally speaking, they squelch a lot of good competitive principles as well as market forces."
On one of her final visits to the family home, in 1973, Heinz Kerry took her boys to the country cottage on the shore of the Indian Ocean.
Her sons could get up in the morning and walk barefoot, chase the chickens in the yard, hunt for snakes, and live out a kind of colonial childhood that would, in another year, be erased in the maelstrom of revolution.
One son, John Heinz IV -- Johnny -- built a sand castle along an inlet to the Indian Ocean. It was a spot not far from the place where American surfers, chronicled in the documentary "The Perfect Wave," found what they were looking for.
"What you get sometimes are these waves that are long but don't reach up to the beach," she said. "If you leave a sand castle in a place it's not going to get destroyed. It was so much fun for him, to have been able to let that there and have it when he got back."
Rebuilding the foundation
The sand castle dissolved on April 4, 1991. John Heinz was on his way to a meeting near Philadelphia when the plane he had chartered collided with a helicopter from the Sun Refining and Marketing Co.
John Heinz's casket was installed in the gothic chapel at the University of Pittsburgh that bears the family name. An honor guard of Republican dignitaries stood by the closed casket. Teresa, at 52, with three sons, was left with the weight of her husband's political legacy, a personal fortune somewhere around $500 million and three Heinz foundations that now total $1.3 billion.
"In the immediate aftermath, I think my mom would be the first to tell you it was sort of a crisis mode for a lot of us in our family for a couple years," remembers one son, Chris Heinz. "I'm sure she doesn't even remember how she dealt with it."
Throughout the week of the funeral, Republican leaders around the state chatted among themselves about a Heinz successor. Then-Gov. Robert P. Casey, a Democrat, was likely to appoint someone from his own party, which would mean a built-in incumbency advantage in the special election that would replace Heinz in November of that year. Repeatedly, they broached the idea of pushing Casey to appoint Teresa Heinz.
"As the funeral is going on, people are saying 'Is she interested in this? I would support her. I think it's a good idea, I don't think it's a good idea,'" recalled Richard Bryers, a former Heinz legislative director. "Little queries here and there and how do you broach it to her because she's not even thinking about this."
After the funeral, Teresa Heinz issued a statement saying she was not interested in the appointment but had not decided against running. In short order, she followed with another statement. She wouldn't run, either.
Instead, she had decided to complete a project her late husband began in the months before the crash. John Heinz had inherited control of his family's foundations and wanted to broaden them from the old model of giving -- symphonies, zoos, ballets -- and reach out to new areas: education, environment, economic development.
"He knew top-down investment would not guarantee success," she said. "I remember having a conversation with him January or February before he died, talking with him about ... how to develop leadership."
The Heinzes were keen to find ways to turn around Western Pennsylvania's ossified economy. It would require a reorganization of the various Heinz endowments. After the senator died, his widow took over.
"She really tried to go back and reconstruct his thinking and intentions," said Bryers. "I think she's pretty much tried to carry that out."
The failures are sometimes as useful as the successes in such ventures. In addition to the usual recipients, the Heinz endowments began to target after-school programs -- one cost millions but did not pan out. They underwrote an array of environmental causes.
"The foundations were always doing those things but I don't think in a concerted, organized way. So she changed, I think, the structure so we had program officers in more narrow fields. I think she ...narrowed the scope but increased the depth of our giving," said son Chris Heinz.
Heinz Kerry says she reorganized the administration of the endowments to assign areas of specialty, but also requires staff there to work with people in other fields where project interests overlap.
"Today we'll have someone with an environmental portfolio talking about an arts program," she explains. "What it does is remind us that all of this is really interrelated."
New party, same views
Less than a year after lacerating Republican Senate candidate Rick Santorum and supporting Democrat Harris Wofford, the man Casey appointed to succeed John Heinz, Teresa Heinz became Teresa Heinz Kerry.
A throng of guests jetted, then rode a bumpy propeller shuttle, to Nantucket, where aides constructed a long tent outside the grey-and-white Heinz family vacation home. The guest list was suitably eclectic: Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post; David Garth, John Heinz's longtime media consultant; Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, who brought his guitar.
Kerry raised a champagne glass "To the lovely teh-RAY-zah." He had won her over by speaking Portuguese to her during a conference in Brazil a few years earlier. Her office announced she would be keeping two things: the Heinz name and her Republican voter registration.
By 2004 John Kerry was the odds-on contender for the Democratic presidential nomination and Teresa Heinz was Teresa Heinz Kerry, Democrat.
Old Republican friends seemed unperturbed.
"It's absolutely necessary for her to be a Democrat now," says Elsie Hillman. "I don't think it's changed her beliefs one way. It's a very right thing for her to do. She became a Republican because she married into a Republican family."
John Norris, who managed Kerry's breakthrough campaign in the Iowa caucuses, said Heinz Kerry became a surprisingly adept, if unconventional, campaigner for her husband. The Heinz Kerry of the strong opinions was also the Heinz Kerry of the soft touch.
"Iowans loved her. She has a manner of more talking than speaking," Norris said.
One of her first breakthroughs was to actually ask Iowans to vote for her husband. Norris said she seemed uncomfortable at the notion of making a request. He reminded her that, after charming a living room full of Iowans, she still had to ask them to vote for her husband at the coming caucuses. Otherwise, the moment would be wasted.
"She wasn't comfortable asking people for their votes," he said. "Finally she would tell them 'John Norris says I'm stupid if I forget to ask for your vote.'"
They laughed, Norris said. And gave Kerry their vote.
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