BOSTON – Vanessa Kerry (search) spoke Thursday of her father's bedside care for his dying mother, and Alexandra told of his beyond-the-call efforts to revive a childhood pet, anecdotes designed to reveal a side of John Kerry (search) that few Americans have seen.
Kerry's two daughters introduced him at the Democratic National Convention (search), explaining why they love him, even though "he loved to mortify us by showing up to our sports games in a bright orange hunting hat and cheered ... just a little too loudly."
"Let me tell you this, when he loves you -- as he loves me and my sister and his family, as he loves the men who fought beside him -- there is no sacrifice too great," said Alexandra, 30, an actress and filmmaker. "When he cares for you, as he cares for this country, there are no surer hands and no wiser heart."
The two women were introduced by their stepbrothers, Chris and Andre Heinz (search), the two younger sons of Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry (search). Vanessa spoke first, hugging and kissing Alexandra as she took the stage. Vanessa held Alexandra back as she continued to the stage, wiping lipstick off her cheek.
Vanessa, 27, described how her father built a small replica of a tree for his mother, with real leaves and copper wire, to bring "a little bit of autumn to her bedside" before she died two years ago.
"A little while later, he told her of his plan to run for president. With a sigh of relief, she said, 'It's about time.' And then she smiled, and said, 'Johnny, remember integrity,"' said Vanessa, a Harvard medical student.
Alexandra told of how he dove off a dock to save her sister's pet hamster, whose cage had been knocked into the water, and proceeded to give the little wet animal CPR.
"It may sound silly ... But, to us, it was serious and that's what mattered to my father," she said, going on to speak of his Vietnam service. "To every little girl, her father is a hero. My father actually is one."
Speaking "as someone who knows all 6-foot-4 inches of my dad best ... 6-foot-6 if you count the hair," Vanessa tried to debunk the idea that John Kerry the politician is a different person than John Kerry the father.
"I can assure you they are truly one and the same," Vanessa said. "What drives my father to serve is exactly what has made this public servant the father I'm proud of, look up to, and love."
Kerry's first wife, Julia Thorne, who raised Alexandra and Vanessa after the couple separated in 1982 and divorced in 1988, did not attend the convention. Her daughters say their very private mother is a strong Kerry supporter.