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Good Samaritan Marks a Sad Anniversary

The hospital where Robert F. Kennedy went after being shot at the Ambassador Hotel holds a memorial service.

June 06, 2003|Joy L. Woodson | Times Staff Writer

Thirty-five years after workers at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles rushed to try to save presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, many of them gathered Thursday to remember him.

About 50 people, mostly former and current staff members, attended a memorial service for the slain New York senator in the hospital's All Souls Chapel.

The hospital president, Andrew B. Leeka, who was 11 at the time, said he knew even then that "the nation wasn't going to be the same as it was the day before."

Margaret Brown, 86, was a hospital supervisor who was called in at 4 a.m., about four hours after the shooting.

She arrived to police cars and barricades, but rushed into the hospital to help.

"We knew we had to do our job. All through the time he was here, the staff was just marvelous, " Brown said.

Just after midnight on June 5, 1968, the 42-year-old senator, who had just won the state Democratic presidential primary and had given a victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel, was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant. Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. June 6.

Paul Schrade, a former Kennedy campaign aide who suffered a bullet wound to the head that night, said he did not know at the time what had happened to Kennedy.

"It was the worst shock I ever had, because we were committed to the same goals and attaining them," Schrade said. The two had worked to help Cesar Chavez's farm laborers' movement and to develop the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, he said.

Former Press Secretary Edwin Guthman, who also attended the memorial, said Kennedy's "compulsion to act" had been a cornerstone in Kennedy's effect on others.

"He often said, 'One person can make a difference, and everyone should try,' " Guthman recalled.

He recalled learning with Kennedy that students from a Washington high school were dropping out to support their families.

Guthman said Kennedy called meetings and helped raise $30,000 to pay students to work at the school while returning to their studies.

Guthman now lectures at USC and serves on the board of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial foundation.

"It was very great to work for him," Guthman said.

"He led us to do things that we would have never done individually."

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