Rosie was the first daughter of a wealthy Bostonian couple who would become known as the patriarch and matriarch of America’s most famous and celebrated family. Elizabeth was the first and only child of a struggling Wisconsin farm family. When they bonded, Rosie was forty-four and Elizabeth a child of only four.
What, besides their religion, did these two very different Catholic women have in common?
One person really: Stella Koehler, a charismatic woman of the cloth who became Sister Paulus Koehler after taking her vows with the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi. Sister Paulus was Elizabeth’s aunt who became Rosemary’s caregiver for thirty-five years.
“The Missing Kennedy” chronicles Rosie’s life…
… along with that of the author’s aunt, and delves into the similarities between the two families. It includes many never-before-seen private photos, Kennedy quotes from the author’s interviews, and anecdotes about Rosemary and her famous family.
Tragically, a caregiver had become necessary after Rosie, a slow learner prone to emotional outbursts, underwent one of America’s first lobotomies―an operation Joseph Kennedy was assured would normalize Rosie’s life. It did not. Rosie’s condition became decidedly worse.
After the procedure, Joe and Rose Kennedy sent Rosie to rural Wisconsin and Saint Coletta, a Catholic-run home for the mentally disabled. For the next two decades, she never saw her siblings, her parents, or any other relative, the doctors having issued stern instructions that even the occasional family visit would be emotionally disruptive to Rosie.
Following Joseph Kennedy’s stroke in 1961, the Kennedy family, led by mother Rose and sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, resumed face to face contact with Rosie.
An insightful, poignant, and important memoir
Elizabeth’s Koehler-Pentacoff’s work is based in part on Sister Paulus’ private notes and augmented by dozens of never-before-seen photos. She recalls the many happy and memorable times spent with Rosie – “the Missing Kennedy.”
Based on independent research and interviews with the Shriver family, the author tries to come to grips with Joseph Kennedy’s well-intended decision to submit his eldest daughter to a still experimental medical procedure, and his later decision to keep Rosie almost entirely out of public view. She looks at the many parallels between Rosie’s post-operative life, her own, and those of the two families.
Elizabeth’s Koehler-Pentacoff traces how, entirely because of Rosie, the Kennedy and Shriver families embarked on an exceedingly consequential campaign advancing the cause of the developmentally disabled―a campaign that continues to this day.
The author of ten books, including a Writer’s Digest Selection for The ABCs of Writing for Children, and her memoir, The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women, Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff is a former columnist for Byline Magazine. She wrote frequent humor pieces for the San Francisco Examiner as well as hundreds of articles and essays in newspapers and magazines such as Parents Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and Parenting.
With degrees in Liberal Studies and Theater Arts/Children’s Theater and two teaching credentials, she’s directed plays and taught elementary and middle school students, as well as teachers. A speaker for international and state conferences, she presents assemblies and workshops for schools and libraries.
Born in rural Wisconsin, Liz moved to California for all of her college and post-graduate education, and has lived most of her adult life in the San Francisco area. She is married and has one grown child.
Visit Elizabeth’s Koehler-Pentacoff for more information.