Ethel Kennedy 'Has a Subversive Streak,' Son Says, as She Celebrates Birthday in Florida

The family matriarch turned 92 on Saturday

Ethel Kennedy
Ethel Kennedy. Photo: Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

“My mom has a subversive streak,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told The New York Post this week by way of explaining something a little unusual.

Family matriarch Ethel Kennedy, who turned 92 on Saturday, is apparently a fan of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

In a Saturday Twitter post that was later deleted but then re-shared with The New York Post, Ethel — in a New England Patriots jersey — smiles alongside granddaughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo (one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daughters) at her home in Palm Beach, Florida, with a framed picture of the late Guevara in the background.

“My mom loves Che Guevara. Her dog is named Che,” her son told the Post.

He added that Ethel also admires one of the biggest political rivals of her late husband, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and her brother-in-law President John F. Kennedy.

“She had a very good relationship with [Fidel] Castro,” RFK Jr. told the Post. He said she met the controversial Cuban president and revolutionary, who died in 2016, several times in Cuba and once convinced him to release political prisoners.

The tenacious matriarch has led her dynastic family through a long list of tragedies, accidents and killings, most recently that of her granddaughter Maeve McKean and McKean’s son Gideon, both of whom died in a canoe accident on April 2 in the Chesapeake Bay.

“It’s never-ending for her. She has lost her husband, two of her children, her nephew John and now two of her grandchildren and a great grandchild,” a close family friend told PEOPLE recently. “It’s unimaginable.”

On Sunday, Ethel spoke during a video call with the Kennedy clan to honor their memory. “God bless Maeve and Gideon, who are up there in heaven with Grandpa, David, Michael, Mary and Saorise,” she said, referring to other Kennedys who died prematurely. “You have all my love — and you are in my heart and my arms are around you.”

Sources close to Ethel describe her as outwardly stoic and resilient but compassionate and devout — the person the family goes to for guidance and strength.

In an interview with PEOPLE in 2012, Ethel reflected on her legacy: “I hope the children live full and happy lives and that they think about other people and help those that are less fortunate.”

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