Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the 22-year-old woman who died at the famous Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, was a granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy and a student at Boston College, according to the New York Times and her LinkedIn page.
Saoirse’s death was from an accidental overdose, adding to a long list of tragedies to strike the Kennedy clan. An autopsy found no trauma inconsistent with life-saving measures.
She died of a mix of methadone, fluoxetine, norfluoxetine, diazepam, nordiazepam, and alcohol.
Kennedy Hill (whose first name is pronounced SUR’-shuh) died on the afternoon of August 1, 2019 “after paramedics were called to one of the homes on the Kennedy Compound property.” In 2016, she movingly and vividly wrote about struggling with depression and surviving a suicide attempt in a column published in The Deerfield Scroll, the student newspaper for Deerfield Academy boarding school. She was also a burgeoning political activist, with an interest in the #metoo movement and gun control issues.
Hyannis News is reporting that the call came from the home of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy and Saoirse’s grandmother. That property is located on the complex at 28 Marchant Ave.
“We’ve lost our daughter and our children, their sister,” wrote Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Instagram. “Saoirse was fierce, both in her love for her family and yearning for justice. A fearless adventurer, she inspired curiosity and daring in her friends. But her greatest gift was to find humor in everything and to give us all the gift of her laughter – and our own. The gaping hole that she leaves in our family is a wound too large to ever heal.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Kennedy Family Declared Itself Shattered After the Death of Saoirse, Who Was the Child of RFK’s Daughter Courtney & Paul Hill
Saoirse Kennedy Hill was the daughter of Courtney Kennedy Hill, a daughter of the assassinated presidential candidate, who was 11 when her dad died. Courtney was the 5th of the 11 children born to Ethel and RFK. When she died, Saoirse was at the compound where Ethel Kennedy lives, according to the New York Times. The Associated Press reported that she is Courtney’s daughter with Paul Michael Hill, “who was one of four falsely convicted in the 1974 Irish Republican Army bombings of two pubs.” Courtney posted this photo of her daughter with Paul Hill on her Facebook page:
Paul Hill first befriended Courtney’s brother, Joe Kennedy, but it was Ethel Kennedy herself who played matchmaker, according to The Independent. “I couldn’t understand a word he said,” Courtney Kennedy recalled to the publication of his Belfast accent. “But I thought: ‘He’s gorgeous.'” They were married from 1993 to 2006, when they separated. It was Courtney’s second marriage. Hill, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years, and Courtney, raised their child partly in Ireland and gave her a Gaelic name meaning “freedom,” The New York Times reported.
Courtney Kennedy, who lives in Bethesda, Maryland, filled her Facebook page with pictures of her daughter. “Courtney, this brings joyful tears to my eyes…..the peace your daughter has found w you…..Mother and Daughter forever love and peace!” wrote one friend about the following photo that Courtney posted with her daughter.
“Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse,” the Kennedy family said in a statement that Kerry Kennedy posted on her Instagram account. “Her life was filled with hope, promise and love. She cared deeply about friends and family, especially her mother Courtney, her father Paul, her stepmother Stephanie, and her grandmother Ethel, who said, ‘The world is a little less beautiful today.’ She lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit. Saoirse was passionately moved by the causes of human rights and women’s empowerment and found great joy in volunteer work, working alongside indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico. We will love her and miss her forever.” Ethel Kennedy is 91-years-old.
Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy told NBC News that there is an American mental health crisis, saying, “This affects every single family in America. It’s way past time that we deal with this in a way that we would deal with any other public health crisis.”
Rep. Kennedy said of Saoirse Kennedy Hill: “She opened the door for her peers to also come out and not feel shamed by this illness and she is a real hero in my family, she broke the silence. And we mourn her loss but her memory will live on as someone who wasn’t going to keep silent and wasn’t going to be feeling as if she had something shameful but rather something medical that she sought treatment for.”
WCVB reported that police are investigating, and the call came in as a possible overdose. There are multiple homes in the famous Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port.
2. Kennedy Hill Was Involved in Campus Politics & Appeared With Her Mother at a Gun Control Rally
According to Hyannis News, the call came in just after 2:30 p.m. on August 1, 2019. Emergency radio transmissions reviewed by Hyannis News indicated that police and rescue were called “to reports of an overdose inside the Kennedy Compound.” The exact nature of the possible overdose hasn’t been revealed, nor has that cause been confirmed.
An officer who responded indicated in the radio transmissions that the person was in cardiac arrest and requested a supervisor. Officials called it only a “reported unattended death.”
The New York Times reported that Kennedy Hill was vice president of the College Democrats at Boston College. She also showed an interest in gun issues and sexual harassment.
On Twitter, she had two accounts. One was privatized, and the second was labeled a “Boston College student account for Social Media and Social Justice class. Raising awareness for the #metoo movement.” She wrote on the second Twitter page, “Under the Obama Admin., sexual assault on college campuses was an issue that was heavily focused on. College administrations were held responsible for creating a culture in which inappropriate sexual behavior would be punished to the highest extent.”
Other posts supported the #metoo movement. “Sexual harassment training in professional workplaces have been mandatory in certain states for quite some time. The #metoo movement has sparked a push for training sessions & is calling on lawmakers to pass bills to ensure mandatory training in more cities & states,” she wrote.
Saoirse appeared in 2018 at a March for Our Lives rally with her mom, Courtney. “Closing the rally was Courtney Kennedy-Hill, daughter of Robert Kennedy, who stood beside her daughter, Saoirse Roisin Kennedy Hill, a student at Boston College,” the Barnstable Patriot reported.
“He and I are the product of gun violence, and we are damaged goods,” Kennedy-Hill said of her father, the newspaper reported, adding that Courtney quoted her uncle, John F. Kennedy, by saying, “When one person is killed by gun violence, the whole nation is degraded.”
When she was 10, Saoirse was in the news for a reported abduction attempt. She said men in a van asked if she wanted a ride as she walked home from playing tennis, according to WCVB-Tv.
3. Kennedy Hill Was Interested in Mass Media & Communications
According to her LinkedIn page, Kennedy Hill wanted to merge politics with the media.
“I am a Junior at Boston College with a passion for the study of mass media and communication. I seek a career where I can merge my studies with my interest in politics and contribute to the national dialogue on the issues that are most important to me through TV, radio, music, and film,” she wrote.
Kennedy Hill wrote on LinkedIn that she attended Boston College starting in 2016 and was attending through 2020. According to IMDB, she also acted in a short film called Cherry Frosting about a cult of runaways.
Marcus Breen, a professor of communication at Boston College, told the New York Times: “In classes she was often the first student to offer an opinion on readings that demanded clear critique about the challenges of contemporary society.”
4. Kennedy Hill Wrote About Her Mental Health Struggles, Describing Her Depression as ‘a Heavy Boulder on My Chest’
In a very moving and poignant column in the Deerfield Scroll, Kennedy Hill shared that she was struggling with mental health issues.
“When you were little, did you ever have friends your mom made you hang out with, even though you didn’t want to? Then those friends kept showing up, and you were confused and sick of them,” she wrote. “Soon enough, those friends were around so much that you got used to them. Finally, those friends were always with you and never left, and you almost began to enjoy having them around.”
She added: “Until last year, this was my relationship with my mental illness. My depression took root in the beginning of my middle school years and will be with me for the rest of my life. Although I was mostly a happy child, I suffered bouts of deep sadness that felt like a heavy boulder on my chest. These bouts would come and go, but they did not outwardly affect me until I was a new sophomore at Deerfield.”
She continued: “We all know that some people find winter at Deerfield lonely, dark, and long. I began isolating myself in my room, pulling away from my relationships, and giving up on schoolwork. During the last few weeks of spring term, my sadness surrounded me constantly. But that summer after my sophomore year, my friend depression rarely came around anymore, and I was thankful for her absence.”
In the piece, Saoirse wrote that “someone I knew and loved broke serious sexual boundaries with me,” causing her to attempt suicide.
You can read the full piece here.
Ethel Kennedy’s large brood has had its share of tragedy since the assassination of her husband. While some of the 11 children have been very successful (such as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend), two children died tragically, David and Michael. David Kennedy died at age 28 of an overdose in Palm Beach back in 1984. Michael was killed in a skiing accident.
In 2017, in a series commemorating what would have been President John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday, WBUR reported that Cape Cod is where the president’s legacy remains most visible in the landscape. In addition to the famous Kennedy Compound, where the family has gathered throughout the years, there is a JFK museum, memorial and legacy walk in Hyannis Port, the television station reported.
5. Kennedy Hill Spent Her Last Days Enjoying the Water With the Kennedy Family
Only five days before she died, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., her uncle, posted a photo of Saoirse on Instagram, in a compilation of family photos that included one of Ethel Kennedy fishing.
The Kennedy Compound where Kennedy Hill died is one of the most famous cluster of homes in America.
“The house is a symbol of the Kennedys because so much happened there, especially during the presidential years with different people coming there for conferences or ambassadors visiting heads of state,” said Bob Luddington, a consultant to the Kennedys, to WBUR for that series. The television station described the cluster of buildings as being “in an unassuming residential neighborhood, mostly obscured from street view by tall wooden fences and shrubs” and said Ethel Kennedy was still living there as of 2017.
According to Architectural Digest, “Vivid images of the famed Kennedy compound are emblazoned in the eyes of several generations: Marine One landing on the lawn for weekends President John F. Kennedy spent with his brothers; cousins running toward the helicopter to greet their fathers.”
There have been various incidents throughout the years in Hyannis Port involving the Kennedys, such as when RFK’s son Max and his daughter were arrested after a house party in the area.
According to RAAB Collection, “In 1926 Joseph P. Kennedy rented a large, beautiful, oceanfront summer cottage on Cape Cod at 28 Marchant Avenue in Hyannisport, MA. Two years later, he purchased the structure, which had been erected in 1904, and enlarged and remodeled it to suit his family’s needs.”
“This historical gem was once home to the beloved and iconic United States president John F. Kennedy. Today, the Kennedy family still uses the property. For this reason, it is private property and not open to the public. However, you can still view the estate from a distance,” Candleberry Inn notes.
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