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Washingtonians Remember Former Senator Bob Dole as Generous Friend, Kind Man

NBC Washington D.C. logo NBC Washington D.C. 12/6/2021 Erika Gonzalez, News4 Anchor/Reporter
Paolo Sacco (left), Martina Narayanan (center) and Holly Rotundi (right) remember former Senator Bob Dole. © Provided by NBC Washington D.C.

Paolo Sacco (left), Martina Narayanan (center) and Holly Rotundi (right) remember former Senator Bob Dole.

Former Senator Bob Dole was a soldier and a statesman. He belonged to Kansas first, but once he came to Washington, D.C. he was here to stay.

Dole died early Sunday morning in his sleep at the age of 98, his wife said. But his memory is very much alive in the hearts he touched in the District.

Dole served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 30 years. He was awarded two purple hearts, two bronze stars and was the 1996 Republican presidential nominee.

He boasts a list of achievements simply too numerous to name - but one in particular changed the landscape of the National Mall and became a place of deep reverence.

"The WWII Memorial is home in a way for him, not just Washington, D.C., but the memorial itself because it represents not just him, but the millions of people who served in uniform. But it represents all Americans of the greatest generation,” Holly Rotundi, of Friends of the World War II Memorial, said. 

"He has never lost the ability to be able to relate to the American people, to show an interest in any person that he's talking to no matter what their background,” she added. 

Martina Narayanan knows that to be true. She's been a concierge at the Watergate for decades. Her husband Ed was once a doorman there, too. They made a special connection with the senator the moment he moved into the building.

“He's a great man. Very kind and gentle man,” Narayanan said. “He could have made a great president… He's not prejudiced, he’s not racist, everybody’s friends.”

Dole was the type of friend you send Christmas cards to, the type that visits you in the hospital when you're sick.

“He loved beef stew… my husband and I made the beef stew and took it to Walter Reed,” she said. 

And he proved to be a friend that repays the favor when you need it most. When Narayanan’s husband suffered a heart attack and was out of work, she said the senator generously supported their family.

“He didn’t work for three months, and Senator Dole, every week he’d bring $300 cash and give it me,” she said. “[He’d say,] ‘He’s not working, you need to pay the bills.’”

In downtown D.C., the who's who dine at Tosca. But owner Paolo Sacco said there was no one quite like Senator Bob Dole.

“When you get an affection for somebody, you're just a little biased, so I am I guess. I just love the guy,” Sacco said. “The way he just interacts with people, whether it's with me, with the managers or the busboys, he's always so kind, so self-aware about how he treats people.”

Sacco said the Senator would drop in several times a month. His favorites: tomato soup, the  rockfish and a cosmopolitan. The two bonded over Italy, Sacco’s homeland and the country a young soldier once helped liberate. Table 37 was the senator’s favorite. 

“It is indeed. I have been thinking, I think we're going to put a plaque one day,” Sacco said. 

He was known in the halls of Congress, but he's remembered in the hearts of many. 

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