Taken by Surprise
As two of Washington's highest-profile eligibles—and now one of its most glamorous couples—Kerry, 52, and Heinz, 57, know all about having their every move analyzed. A two-term Democrat, Kerry briefly dated actress Morgan Fairchild after he and writer Julia Thorne divorced in 1988 after 18 years. Heinz, a liberal Republican and prominent philanthropist (Women's Wear Daily once dubbed her Saint Teresa), inherited the $760 million H. J. Heinz food company fortune following the death of her husband of 25 years, U.S. Sen. John Heinz III of Pennsylvania, in a midair collision near Philadelphia International Airport in 1991. Now in a tight reelection bid against popular Republican Gov. William Weld, a multimillionaire, Kerry—whose assets totaled less than $100,000 before he married Heinz—has had to contend with cynics who insinuate he married for more than love. "I know there are people who are saying, 'Oh, sure,' " says Kerry, who, under federal election law, is allowed to use up to half of his and Heinz's shared assets—an amount he won't reveal—to finance his campaign. "I don't care. What is important is that we enjoy being together, sharing our lives."
Friends don't doubt it. "Before he married Teresa, he was lonely," says Kerry pal Tommy Vallely, director of the IndoChina program at the Harvard Institute for International Development. "Now he's bubbly. He's in love."
To be sure, neither Kerry nor Heinz jumped headlong into the relationship. A casual acquaintance of the Heinzes' when the late senator was in Congress, Kerry was at the same Washington dinner as Teresa one night in February 1994. Impulsively, Kerry, a decorated Vietnam vet, asked her to accompany him on a stroll to the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial. "The farthest thing from our minds was dating," says Heinz. But by evening's end they realized, to their surprise, that they wanted to see each other again. "Both of us were wary and unprepared," says Kerry. Recalls Heinz: "I had been married to the love of my life. It was very hard to then think of going out with someone else."
Gradually, cautiously, the pair began a romance. One weekend they would rendezvous at Heinz's retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho (one of her four homes); the next, they would cook to classical music at Kerry's Boston apartment. By October, says Kerry, "it began to be very important to me to make it work—it hurt not to be together." After a brief discussion one night over plates of homemade risotto, they decided to marry.
Seven months later, surrounded by 100 guests—including Kerry's daughters, Alexandra, 22, and Vanessa, 19, and Heinz's three sons, John, 29, Andre, 26, and Christopher, 22—the couple wed at Heinz's $4 million Nantucket, Mass., estate. "It's wonderful seeing Teresa happy again," says longtime friend Wren Wirth, an environmentalist and the wife of State Department undersecretary Tim Wirth. "John Kerry and John Heinz are actually quite similar. Both are exceedingly bright and committed to social issues."
The second of three children, Kerry was born in Denver but later raised in Oslo, Paris and Berlin after his father, Richard, an Air Force pilot turned diplomat (mother Rosemary was a homemaker), was named legal adviser to the high commissioner of West Germany after World War II. He attended boarding school in Switzerland and the exclusive St. Paul's School in New Hampshire and went on to graduate from Yale with a political science degree in 1966. Kerry then joined the Navy, volunteering for Vietnam, where he commanded the "swift boats" that patrolled rivers, flushing out Vietcong. "I believed I owed my country something," he says. But his enthusiasm soon evaporated. "I began to see how totally weird it was," he says. "I was getting angry as I saw good friends killed in absurdly conceived missions."
Returning home in 1969 with three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star (awarded for his courageous leadership against the enemy), he became one of the organizers of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, making headlines at a Washington protest rally in 1971 by disposing of his medals on the lawn of the Capitol. "I was brash and impatient," Kerry says. "I wanted everything to change now." Seeing politics as the way to make a difference, he ran for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in Lowell, Mass., in 1972 but lost. Graduating from Boston College Law School in 1976, he became an assistant district attorney in Boston. With an impressive record prosecuting high-profile cases, he was elected Michael Dukakis's lieutenant governor in 1982. Two years later he successfully ran for the Senate, where he headed the Select Committee on POW/MIA affairs and lobbied for medical coverage for veterans affected by Agent Orange.
Heinz, the second of three children, was born and raised in Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony, by her Portuguese father, Jose Simoes-Ferreira, a doctor, and his Mozambique-born wife, Irene Thierstein. Educated at boarding schools in South Africa, Teresa participated in student protests against apartheid while studying romance languages and literature at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. "My father begged me to become a doctor," she says regretfully. "But I thought I'd be married and have children."
Fluent in five languages, she graduated in 1959 and went on to the Interpreters School of the University of Geneva. There she met John Heinz, then working at a bank as part of his training to take over the family empire. In 1966, two years after she moved to New York City as a consultant to the United Nations, they wed.
As her husband grew in political prominence—he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1971 and the Senate five years later—Teresa, who had quit work to raise her children, lobbied against destruction of the rain forest, nuclear arms and lead paint in low-income housing. Following her husband's death, she was considered the natural candidate to fill his seat, but she declined. With a family business to oversee and three children to comfort, she was emotionally shattered. "Her sorrow was so deep, I wondered what would happen," says a friend. "Now she seems crazy about Kerry, and we are all so happy."
Hitting the campaign trail together, the pair shuttle between their two primary residences: Heinz's $2.2 million Georgetown home and their newly purchased $2 million, five-story house on Boston's Beacon Hill. A daredevil who thrives on paragliding and acrobatic flying, Kerry has recently helped Heinz unwind by teaching her to Rollerblade. "I put pads on all over," she says, laughing. Most of all, they spend their free time reveling in each other. "Until we met, I was sort of stumbling along and so was Teresa," says Kerry. Now, he adds, smiling broadly, "we both love the moonrise, the sunrise, the wind and the water. We love everything about life."
JANE SIMS PODESTA in Boston