The collection of clapboard houses on Marchant Street off Scudder Avenue in Hyannis Port is known as the Kennedy Compound. The houses are largely hidden from view behind a stockade fence and down a private road, so the only way to get a good look is from the water. The original home bought by Joseph and Rose Kennedy has a large wraparound porch and overlooks Nantucket Sound. That house, now owned by Ted Kennedy and his wife, Victoria, is where the senator spent most of his time after his seizure in 2008 and subsequent diagnosis of a brain tumor.
There are several other family homes in the area. Maria Shriver owns a house nearby on Atlantic Avenue, and on a summer day it is not unusual to see various Kennedy or Shriver family members walking the streets or riding bikes on their way down to the beach or heading down to the small, private Hyannis Port Yacht Club to go sailing.
Kennedy's 50-foot wooden schooner is anchored here. In the final months of his life, although it was clearly physically difficult for him, Kennedy would ride in a golf cart slowly down the dock and, with his family supporting him, would board his boat for a sail. The senator often said that sailing was one of the greatest pleasures of his life.
Penn often sailed with the senator and competed against him in a Cape Cod sailing race called the Figawi. The race starts in Hyannis and heads to Nantucket. It's a Cape tradition held on Memorial Day weekend every year. Kennedy was a fierce competitor.
"He takes it very seriously when he is out there. He knows where he is going. He charts the course and when he is behind the wheel he is the one who calls the shots," said Penn, who added, softly,"the water was his life."
A short drive from the Kennedy Compound is Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville, the Catholic church that many Kennedy family members attended in the summer months. Like so many places in Kennedy's life it has been the focus of both sadness and joy. Joy when the senator escorted his niece, Caroline Kennedy, down the aisle of this intimate country church on her wedding day July 19, 1986. And sorrow when he attended the funeral of his nephew, 39-year-old Michael Kennedy, after a tragic skiing accident in 1998. On that day, the altar was a sea of white roses, lilies and poinsettias. A family friend, Andy Williams, sang "Ave Maria," and a parish priest from Waterford, Ireland, helped celebrate the Mass.
But that is not the only church to figure prominently in Kennedy family life on the Cape.
St. Francis Xavier Church on South Street in Hyannis was the church Rose and Joe Kennedy chose to attend when they first bought their home in Hyannis Port in the 1920s. For the next 60 years, St. Francis Xavier was a summer parish for most of the Kennedy family. It was also the site of several important family events so much so, that the locals often call it the "Kennedy church."
When Joe Kennedy Jr. died Aug. 12, 1944, his parents held a service at St. Francis Xavier. The main altar of the church is now a memorial to him. President John F. Kennedy attended Sunday Mass with his family there during the summer. Church historians recall that the Kennedys would sit in the second row of pews and Secret Service would bracket the president in the front and third rows.