Henry Kissinger Goes to a Funeral

In 1995, on a Sunday in September, Helena Shultz, the wife of George Shultz, the former secretary of state to Reagan, was buried in a small country cemetery. O’Bie, as she was known by those close to her, and George had long been summer residents in neighboring Cummington, a town a several hundred fewer than Worthington.

When George golfed at the Worthington Golf Course, he asked the locals to fill out his foursome, a thrill no doubt to all the Republican golfers in town. In those days, it was easy to know when George was playing. The town would be crawling with Secret Service and state troopers.

The Shultzes lived in Cummington, where they hired townsfolk to take care of their property, a throwback to the good old days of summer residents. They owned a great deal of acreage, and across one spot a path led to a clothing-optional beach located on state land that’s frequented mostly by gay men. That juicy bit of news made national headlines after a four hundred pound man broke his leg at Caulker’s Pond and the local firefighters had to use a hand stretcher to carry him out in the sweltering heat.

But on this afternoon, I was going to Helena Shultz’ burial at Dawes Cemetery to see if there might be a story. About a hundred people were there, including family who sat beneath a canopy, and the people who had contact with the Shultzes over the years such as the carpenters who built their new home and the former owner of the general store who told me he had a box of groceries ready whenever the Shultzes came to town.

Then, a couple of limos stopped, and Henry Kissinger and his wife, Nancy walked up the hill, she towering over him, past the ancient gravestones of Cummington settlers. They were joined by a group of men in expensive suits, undoubtedly as important, but none were as recognizable as Kissinger. I was pleased. I was the only reporter, but I kept my notebook at my side to jot a few discreet notes.

The ceremony was brief. The funeral had been in California, where the Shultzes lived full-time. Afterward, the regular folk stood in a circle as George greeted each one. He shook hands, staying a little longer with some to chat and to give a hug.

When it was my turn, I stuck out my hand, and told him my name and that I was a reporter for the local paper. He shook, but from his stony expression I knew he was unhappy at this intrusion. I was not welcome, and I didn’t blame him. He may be famous, but his wife wasn’t. She was a diplomat’s wife and mother of his children. So, I didn’t ask him anything, but let him go to the next person and we all waited until the last was met.

But my editor was happy. He liked the story enough to run it on the front page. The headline? “Kissinger among those attending graveside rites for Helena Shultz.”


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