Teresa Heinz Kerry
By Anne Adams
“Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids,” said Teresa Heinz Kerr in mid-September, 2004 when she was paying a visit to Brooklyn Caribbean immigrants who were packing supplies for hurricane relief. “Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes,” she continued. A reporter later explained that Mrs. Kerry was expressing an opinion that some relief workers had been emphasizing providing clothes when what victims really needed first were provision for water, power and food. Yet while that may well have been her meaning, once again she had expressed her opinion in such a way that it attracted media attention – and controversy. While some wives of presidential candidates do not attract such attention, Mrs. Kerry’s outspoken honesty assures her the attention that comes with such a practice. Yet if she is somewhat unique and non-traditional in her candid frankness, her background is just as unique.
Teresa Simoes-Ferreira was born in Mozambique, East Africa on October 5, 1938, to a Portuguese doctor and his wife in what was then a Portuguese colony. Her family was well off financially, her father had an active practice and Teresa accompanied him occasionally into the African bush to treat his patients. After receiving an undergraduate degree at a university in Johannesburg, South Africa, Teresa attended and then graduated from a Swiss interpreters’ school, then came to the U.S. to work as a translator at the United Nations. She had become fluent in not just English, and her native Portuguese but also in Spanish, French and Italian.
In 1966 Teresa married Henry John Heinz III, a member of the Heinz Foods company family, who was then a Republican senator representing Pennsylvania. They had three sons: John, Andre and Christopher. However, when Senator Heinz was killed in an airplane crash on April 4, 1991, Mrs. Kerry inherited the large Heinz fortune. She declined to run for the Senator’s vacant seat, feeling that she should devote her time to her sons, and new responsibilities as head of the various Heinz charitable foundations.
She first met Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts at an Earth Day rally in 1990 before her first husband’s death. However, they renewed their acquaintance in Rio de Janeiro Brazil a year later when she was serving as part of a State Department delegation appointed by President George H. W. Bush. They began a courtship in 1993 and were married on May 26, 1995 on Nantucket, Massachusetts.
However, aside from a familiar role as wife of a U.S. Senator, Mrs. Kerry has created her own niche as chair of several Heinz family foundations that contributes funds to various social and environmental causes. She has also assisted the community of Pittsburgh where the Heinz family has many social and financial connections. She has received ten honorary doctoral degrees, and was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism in 2003.
As an outspoken campaigner for her husband, while Mrs. Kerry has attracted criticism for her comments, she has also gained the admiration of many supporters for her willingness to assert her own individuality. Also, should her husband be elected president, Mrs. Kerry would be the second foreign-born First Lady, the first being British-born Louisa Adams, wife of President John Quincy Adams who served in the 1820s.
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Anne grew up in northwestern Ohio, and holds degrees in history: a BA from Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio (1967), and a MA from Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, Missouri (1968). A freelance writer since the early 1970s, she has published in Christian and secular publications, has taught history on the junior college level, and has spoken at national and local writers’ conferences. Her book “Brittany, Child of Joy”, an account of her severely retarded daughter, was issued by Broadman Press in 1987. She also publishes an encouragement newsletter “Rainbows Along the Way.”