A week and a half after her husband's death, Christopher Reeve's widow, Dana, joined Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry Thursday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio, to introduce him and express her support for him and his call for federally funded expansion of embryonic stem-cell research and innovation.
Said Reeve before the crowd: "Eleven days ago, a light went out in my life. When Chris died, the world lost a truly inspirational leader. I lost my best friend. I have been grieving privately the past week and a half, surrounded by close friends and family, trying to help the children start to piece together life without their dad."
She went on to say: "My inclination would be to remain private for a good long while. But I came here today in support of John Kerry because this is so important. This is what Chris wanted."
The Kerry campaign office said she approached the Massachusetts senator about making what probably will be her only pre-election political appearance. At the Ohio stop, Reeve stated that her vote was going to Kerry – who then took the stage with his arms open to Reeve. He then kissed her.
Christopher Reeve, who became a quadriplegic after a 1995 riding accident, became an outspoken advocate of spinal cord research, including looser restrictions on stem-cell research. Kerry and the actor knew each other for about 15 years, through family and political connections.
Kerry told PEOPLE the Superman
star left him a lengthy cell phone message the day before he died, thanking the candidate for mentioning him during that week's presidential debate and for all his campaigning on behalf of medical research.
"I got a very long, detailed message about how excited he was that I talked about stem-cell research and how elated he was that it was at the level it was of discussion and how hopeful he was that we could really advance it," Kerry said. (For more on Reeve's own foundation, and to donate or send condolences, go to www.christopherreeve.org
Wednesday night in Manhattan, Dana Reeve and her son with Christopher, Will, 12, attended the premiere of The Brooke Ellison Story,
an A&E network film directed by Christopher and due to air Oct. 25. Also in the audience were Matthew and Alexandra Reeve, Chris's adult children from a previous relationship. It was the family's first public appearance since Reeve's Oct. 10 death.
At the premiere, Reeve friend Glenn Close told PEOPLE: "Dana is a remarkable woman. She is so full of grace and strength and humor and intelligence. She was a great partner for him."