YAKIMA, Wash. — The morning and afternoon editions of Yakima’s then-two daily newspapers told very different stories on Nov. 22, 1963.
The Yakima Morning Herald’s front page reported the Valley could get its first dusting of snow by afternoon. Over at City Hall, officials were again being told by a consultant it was time to stop talking and actually adopt a design concept for a new comprehensive plan for the city.
On the bottom half of the page was a story about a crowd of more than 250,000 that greeted President John F. Kennedy on his arrival in Houston, part of a trip that was intended to take him to Dallas and dinner in Austin.
Hours later, the huge headlines of the evening paper, the Yakima Daily Republic, told a different story.
The nation’s 35th president had been assassinated
Yakima Valley residents, like others across the country, reacted with shock.
The Valley’s phone lines jammed and overloaded in the crush of calls. Pastors at several churches immediately scheduled memorials or special services. More than a few public officials said they were too shocked to offer comment.
“In Prosser, men on the street were seen weeping and a strange stillness and calm settled over the city,” the paper reported.
It was one of those terrible moments of shared tragedy that people remember for the rest of their lives.
Pearl Harbor was one such moment. Sept. 11, 2001, was another.
While 50 years have passed, memories of the assassination and shocking and sadly poignant days that followed remain etched in the memories of those old enough to remember.
The Yakima Herald-Republic asked readers to recall those days.
Yakima resident Maria Fusselman remembers what it was like living in Havana, where her uncle secretly listened to American reports on an illegal shortwave radio and how her family had to hide its emotions from others in Cuba.
Ernie Abdo of Selah was a 4-year-old whose family took him to see the motorcade in Dallas.
Carmena Capp of Naches was driving with a co-worker and her two children from their mission in Rhodesia to South Africa when they noticed the Rhodesian flag at half-staff at the Custom House near the border. A customs official broke the terrible news that “your president has been shot and killed.”
What follows are the recollections of these three and those sent in by other readers.
• John Kennedy was a hero to the citizens of Germany. One of the highlights of modern German history was his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.
At age 16, in 1963, I was an exchange student, attending a German Gymnasium (high school) in Düsseldorf. On the evening of Nov. 22, I went to the movies with my host family. Coming out of the theater at about 9:30 that evening (about 2:30 p.m. in Dallas), a newspaper boy was hawking papers with the headline “Kennedy ermordet!”, meaning “Kennedy assassinated!”
We were mortified. Immediately after getting home, I tuned into Armed Forces Radio and listened for hours as the story unfolded.
The next morning my schoolmates were furious, and they took it out on me. “How can this happen?” “In America?” “We thought you Yankees were better than this!” I was at a loss for words. How could I explain? Why were they blaming me?
The professor finally intervened to bring order to the classroom. In time, of course, they came to “forgive” me. But it was obvious the tragedy seemed almost as great in Germany as here in our country.
— John Strong, Yakima
• I was there that day in Dallas.
I was 4 years old. My mother took me to see the motorcade on Lemon Avenue on its way downtown. My uncle Steve had a cafe on Lemon, and we parked in the parking lot. My father made us delicious chocolate malts there.
When we got back into the car to go, my mother turned on the radio and we heard the news. We went to pick up my brother David at school which was being let out early. My mother was crying.
I’ve seen the film of the motorcade so many times since then that, except for the above, my memory has become blurred.
— Ernie Abdo, Selah
• I was at home in Havana, Cuba, where there was no freedom of the press and any news, especially about JFK, was taboo.
My uncle had a shortwave radio and he listened to U.S. news with his headphones so nobody could hear what he was listening to, otherwise he could have gone to jail.
When the news about the president was announced, he drove 12 miles to our house to let us know. He whispered it to my mom and me.
I remembered crying and crying and my mother was frantic because if the communist neighbors would have found out I would have been in big trouble, maybe sent to jail.
Later that day, when finally the government’s news decided to let the Cuban people know about the president’s assassination, the populous went out on the streets chanting and reveling, as if it had been a holiday. Our sadness had to be repressed and we didn’t even sit in our porch so that no one could notice.
— Maria J. Fusselman, Yakima
• I was living in Palisade, Colo., at the time. My husband was at work. I was fixing lunch for him and watching “As the World Turns” on TV. Walter Cronkite cut in with news about 11:50 a.m. and said the president had been shot. I felt sick inside. I was there alone with my 18-month-old son. My sister-in-law said it felt like a member of your own family had been killed. We followed the news that came.
That is my take on memories. I’ve never forgotten it.
— Jean Ivie, Selah
• I was a junior at Eisenhower High School, sitting in the library, when the announcement the president had been shot came over the intercom. The air was sucked out of the room, and in shocked silence, we returned to our classroom. Soon, the president was dead and we were sent home. This was the single most national changing event I experienced until 9/11.
I had a déjà vu experience last summer, when I sat in the same exact location in the Eisenhower Library during the pre-demolition open house. The rush of those 50-year-old memories and the emotions at the time were surreal and almost overwhelming.
America lost its innocence that day.
— George “Spud” Edmondson, Yakima
• The day President John Kennedy was assassinated I was in my first year of teaching, leading my French class at Sunnyside High School. We heard over the intercom that the president had been shot in Dallas and later that he was now dead. An atmosphere of shocked disbelief came over the classroom. One of my students sitting in the front row — a Catholic, like the president — was weeping, praying and crossing herself. What to do now? Normally, we ended the period by singing some French songs. This was obviously inappropriate in the circumstances, so after some moments of quiet reflection, we launched into a discussion of the orderly transfer of governmental power contained in the Constitution. I had very recently become a United States citizen (I was born in England) and had studied this for some required exams prior to being granted citizenship. When the bell rang to end the period, it was an unusually subdued group that proceeded down the hallway.
— Brian Aggett, Yakima
• I was in the fifth grade at Naches Grade School. We were in the midst of doing math, and a teacher stepped into the classroom. He told my teacher that the radios were saying the president had been shot. We all looked at one another and wondered how does this affect us?
We were sent home early that day. What followed in the next few days was more than just a few days off school. It was an afternoon and evening spent watching the black and white TV. It was seeing Walter Cronkite announcing the death of President Kennedy, and while he cried we cried with him on our loss. It continued the next day with the live feed of Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby. This followed with pictures and film of Jackie Kennedy in her blood-soaked outfit aboard Air Force One watching as Lyndon Baines Johnson took over the reins while President Kennedy’s casket was carefully being loaded in the cargo area. Next, was a national funeral and the ending of what we called Camelot as seen by John Jr. and his salute, Jackie standing strong in her black clothing and veil, and finalized with the first lady and children having to move out of the White House. The glorious era and hope was ended so quickly. To do this day, I still wonder what could have been, but never was, a true American tragedy for the young and youthful.
— Mary Rennie, Naches
• I was a senior at Davis High School in Yakima. It was third period. A few minutes before the bell rang to change classes, an announcement came across the intercom. “The president has been shot.” I don’t remember the rest of the message. When the bell rang, no one moved. People just sat in disbelief. I remember seeing glassy expressions and shock. Somehow we got to fourth period. I wasn’t there long, when my emotions swept over me and I began to sob. I ran from the room to the girl’s lavatory. There was a large window that I looked out of for a long time. I suddenly felt cold and alone. I wanted desperately to have someone hold me and tell me everything would be OK, but of course it wouldn’t be. Much more followed the days to come. I don’t remember much of the rest of the day, but I think I left school and went home.
— Elaine Heaton, Moxee
• I was driving a co-worker, also American, and her two little girls to South Africa.
We had driven more than 100 miles already that morning from our mission station in southern Rhodesia. The hot tarmac shimmered with heat waves as we wound through the bush veldt toward the Limpopo River, which delineates the boundaries of the two nations. The kids were very busy watching for animals, especially giraffes, monkeys and sometimes an ostrich. It was a pleasant trip and we were all enjoying the outing very much indeed.
We finally reached Beitbridge and the Customs House perched on the bank of the amazing Limpopo River a few hundred meters from the bridge that connects Rhodesia to South Africa. As we got out of the car we saw the Rhodesian flag in front of the Custom Office was flying at half staff and we immediately started speculating about which important Rhodesian leader it might be that was dead.
As we laid our American passports on the desk in front of the customs official we asked, “Why is the flag at half staff today?”
“The flag is at half staff because your president has been shot and killed.” That’s all he said. It was all the facts he knew.
We struggled to control our thoughts and emotions and fill out our travel forms. He stamped them and handed back our passports. We walked back out the door into the blazing African sun.
It took a long time to deal with the shock and sadness before we were able to drive across the bridge and on to South Africa.
— Carmena Capp, Naches
• I was newly married in 1963, living in housing at Camp Pendleton.
The housing area was pretty isolated, so we had a Helms Bread truck that came around once a week. He dispatched bread, goodies like doughnuts and a couple of jokes.
About noon on Nov. 22, the bread man parked, got out of his truck, and neighbors and I gathered around to hear the latest gossip and joke.
Bread Man, “Did you hear, the president was shot!”
All of us, “No, what’s the punch line?”
“No, no, the president was shot, in a motorcade in Dallas!”
We had neither a radio or TV at the time. Somehow, a TV was borrowed and we saw history unfold that weekend.
President Kennedy dead, balance of power transferred, with the first lady in attendance, in her pink suit.
Lee Harvey Oswald captured, then murdered before our very eyes.
The president lying in state in Washington, D.C.; the parade, the president’s coffin, draped in the American flag, pulled by horses; Black Jack, the saddled horse, with riding boots turned backward in the stirrups; John-John saluting his father as he passed; heads of state walking behind the coffin and horses.
Hundreds of thousands of people, lining the streets, crying, as our beloved president passed.
The Eternal Flame, that still, to this day, burns.
The day the music died.
— Jacqueline J. Parke, Yakima
• At 13, I was a typical eighth-grader in Grandview when the news hit our small-town school. I was walking down the hall with a friend when I said something I will regret for the rest of my life. It was horrible — not who I was or who I am now. But as a 13-year-old whose mouth ran off without the brain thinking, I said “It’s about time.” Mr. Rinehart, with tears in his eyes, was walking past sobbing. He grabbed me and put me up against the wall, saying, “Do you realize what you just said?” At that moment a life’s lesson was learned: Take care in what your mouth says without having first engaged your common sense. This was a civics lesson learned in a very blunt and humbling way.
(By the way, I married his daughter and have been humbled and honored to know this man ever since.)
— Mike Horner, Grandview
• In 1963, I was stationed at Biggs Air Force Base in El Paso, Texas. The day President Kennedy was killed I was working at my job in the base flight planning center. A young second lieutenant came running into my work area and said the president had been shot. I turned on a radio and began listening to the accounts of the shooting. Within minutes, many pilots who were getting ready to fly out were gathered around the radio. I remember that hardly a word was spoken as we all listened. Biggs was a busy Strategic Air Command installation at that time but activities came to almost a standstill during that day.
— Dick Krous, Yakima
• It was my 21st birthday. I was a student at Gonzaga University when the radio announcement of Kennedy’s assassination was broadcast in midmorning. Very few fuzzy black and white televisions were available in Madonna Hall, and classes proceeded as scheduled. Everyone was in the state of shock. News wasn’t so immediately available in that time before computers. So much for my free pitcher of beer at Joey’s Tavern (known now as Jack & Dan’s) near campus ... but there was a television there, as a subdued crowd of students gathered. The campus closed the following day and we all went home. I remember it as if it was yesterday.
— Cathy Colver, Yakima
• I was in 10th grade English class in Fort Wayne, Ind., when a teacher burst into the room to say the president had been shot. The area was a hotbed of John Birch Society folks and my classmates began to cheer, as I cried, tears rolling down my cheeks. Moments later over the loudspeaker came the announcement the president had been assassinated and that the basketball game (it was a Friday) had been canceled. This news was met with boos and jeers. This is Indiana! How can they cancel a basketball game?!?
I got home after school to see both my parents (my dad had come home from work early) sitting in front of the television crying. I had never seen my parents cry and it scared me.
— Shelly Jenkins, Yakima
• My former husband and I were in Boston for his kidney transplant.
The lady I was renting from took me downtown shopping. We were taking a break in a tea room when the announcement came across the TV that the president had been shot. I asked myself what president was visiting the U.S. — never thinking that it was ours.
On our way home on the subway, it derailed. Sitting there in the dark with a car full of people, no one was talking. No noise at all. We were all still stunned.
— Linda M. Stump, Yakima
• I was in block (physical) training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. When we heard, we were in formation, marching from the training building and ending at the chow hall for lunch. An airman came running down the street, yelling at the top of his lungs that the president had been shot. Literally, we wondered if he was nuts. When we got to the chow hall, it was on the speaker system. It was the quietest I had ever heard the place. There were muted noises coming from the serving line and dead silence at the tables. No one was speaking and few were eating, all listening to the speaker, glancing at each other then quietly getting up and leaving.
Back at the barracks, it was the same story, queries of “Have you heard?” and stares of disbelief. By now President Kennedy had been pronounced dead.
Later that afternoon, I left base and hitchhiked the 130 miles home to see my mom and dad, just south of Fort Worth. When I got home to my family, they were all glued to the TV. My sister Connie was crying and said that she had been along the motorcade route to Carswell Air Force Base, and that she had managed to be streetside and waved and just couldn’t believe that he was dead. For everyone it seemed as if a member of the family had passed.
Sunday afternoon I hitchhiked back to base and found that training school for Monday had been canceled. I spent the next day in the squadron Day Room watching the televised state funeral with a few other men. We didn’t talk much and when they showed John John saluting his father’s casket as it went by, there were tears.
— Louis Medford, Yakima
• On Nov. 22, 1963, I was enjoying the last of my lunch hour with my fifth-grade Kentucky classmates in the balcony of my school gym. As we got up to head back in the direction of our classrooms, a fourth-grader came rushing up to us to say, “The president has been shot. President Kennedy has been shot.” Even today I have no trouble recalling perfectly that fourth-grader’s face illuminated in the afternoon sun. Neither my friends nor I knew quite what to make of this piece of news, much less whether the source was reliable, but we all knew the charismatic and handsome president and his beautiful wife, Jacqueline.
Rushing back to our classrooms, we settled into our seats and listened wordlessly as our teacher tearfully confirmed the report that not only had the president been shot, but it was feared, fatally. My memories of the rest of that week are less clear, other than: schools were closed; Americans sat stone-faced or tearful in front of our TVs watching replays of the events of that day; and then finally, witnessing the slow progress of the funeral procession through people-lined streets to the nation’s Capitol ... and the sight of the black-veiled Mrs. Kennedy with her children, Caroline and John-John, saluting. At the end of that broadcast, I gathered up that week’s closely read newspapers, rolled them together, put them in seven or eight plastic bags, securing each bag before putting it into the next, and finally, going out in my side yard, and ceremoniously burying them for posterity. I have often wondered if they still exist and what will be made of them if found.
— Debby Douglas, Yakima
• I was in high school in Kansas. We were summoned from classes to go to the school auditorium, after being told that the president had been shot in an assassination attempt. We sat in the auditorium in a sort of quiet shock, watching the news on a black-and-white TV on the stage, it was likely no larger than 26 inches at most. One friend, a girl with also the surname Kennedy, was particularly emotional about the attack. I think we all felt goodwill to President Kennedy; he was our country’s president.
— Cathy Jameson, Yakima
• Nov. 22 fell on a Friday in 1963. I was a 22-year-old apprentice teacher in Cambridge, Mass. It was mid-afternoon, and we were all looking forward to the weekend. As I made my way to the office to sign out, I noticed how many people were visibly upset. I asked what had happened and was told that President Kennedy had been shot.
I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe it. Surely the reporters were incorrect or exaggerating. Likely it was just a rumor gone awry. I turned on my radio as I drove to the suburbs, discovering that the stories were all too true. Cars were parked all along both sides of the freeway, many drivers crying and too distraught to continue.
During the next two days, several stores were closed. In the ones that remained open, there were only a few customers, grimly going about their business in almost complete silence. The weekend that we had been looking forward to was suddenly thrust under a pall of gloom.
— Lea Welch, Yakima
• I was 14 years old and had just entered high school. It was a great high school in the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay area; not too conservative, but definitely not that liberal, either. As a freshman I was full of fear and loathing and not a little awe at what lay ahead of me for the next four years.
It was President Kennedy’s third year in office. He had ushered in — at least for me — freshness, a reason to hope, someone my age and upbringing I could relate to. At that time, I was too caught up in my own hubris to really understand politics. (Poli-sci might as well have been sci-fi for me then.)
Most of what I knew came from half-listening to my mother and grandparents, my jaded history teacher, or Walter Cronkite. But one thing I did know was it was a time of great change. It was the time of civil rights demonstrations and the rise of Martin Luther King, the Beatles, Vietnam, anti-war protests, hippies and Haight-Ashbury, Khrushchev and his “we will bury you” speech, and one nearly life-ending event: the Cuban Missile Crisis. All that energy — the good and the crazy — coursed through my teenage body as I went from classroom to classroom. My biggest worry at that time was remembering my locker combination.
The morning of Nov. 22 I was in math class. I remember the voice of our principal coming on over the intercom. I remember hearing him say that “President John F. Kennedy has been shot and killed.”
I remember sitting for what seemed like an eternity at my desk just staring at the chalkboard. Then I’m out in the hallway, near the quad, with hundreds of other students. We’re just milling around; many are crying. All except for our resident “bad boy,” Spike. I remember this so clearly: he’s standing in the hall, supported by his Canadian crutches (a victim of polio which made him act like a bully most of the time), and laughing. Not chuckling, but laughing loudly as if daring someone to say something. And, out of the blue, a boy grabs one of his crutches and slams it into Spike’s stomach and the people around me including myself cheer. He’s on the ground, doubled over, not laughing anymore as we just walk past him.
After that incident the rest of the day is a blur. All classes were dismissed but I don’t know how I got home. Did I take the bus? Did I walk? I just don’t remember. Nor do I remember much of what happened from the assassination to Kennedy’s funeral. But three things stand out:
• The killing of Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 24. I watched it happen on national TV.
• Jacqueline Kennedy kneeling and kissing the coffin of JFK.
• My mom sobbing and cursing Oswald as the Navy Hymn began to play during the funeral procession
Today, 50 years later, I still feel emptiness at the loss JFK and what might have been.
The loss of such eloquence and potential led me to register as a Democrat the day I turned 18. And I waited eagerly to vote. Robert Kennedy was running for president in 1968 and he was a strong contender. Another few years and, finally, I might have the chance to vote for a Kennedy with that same eloquence and promise. But that is a story for another time.
— Marlette West, Yakima
• On that fateful day, I was shopping at a Jewel Tea store in Schaumburg, Ill., where I lived at the time with my husband, Rich, and 3-year-old son, Paul. They announced it over the intercom, but just said he had been shot. People in the grocery store couldn’t believe it and figured he certainly would survive. Once I got home I heard the details and that he had died. My husband and I were glued to the TV set for the next several days and were shocked when we saw Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald. Of course that’s all everyone talked about for a long time. History was made right before our eyes.
My husband and I had been hoping to have another child and the doctor did not give us much hope, but when it happened, the doctor said it was probably because we were just sitting around all those days. Our daughter was conceived on that weekend and was born nine months later, so something good came out of all that sadness.
— Pat Goberville, Selah
• At 11 years of age, I was in Mr. O’Brien’s sixth-grade class at Holmes Elementary School in Spokane.
The school secretary came in, visibly shaken with tears streaming down her face. Mr. O’Brien turned on the classroom TV set and nothing more was said. There was no specific information on TV about what had happened and in those days, adults didn’t really talk to kids. It wasn’t until I went home that I found out that the president had been shot to death.
I remember watching President Kennedy’s funeral and crying for his wife and children. I still have the book “The Torch is Passed.”
— Candie Turner, Yakima
• I was 20 years old and working at Yakima Valley Regional Library on Third Street in Yakima when JFK was killed. What a terrible shock.
— Suzanne L. Richings, Yakima
• The day John F. Kennedy got shot we were on our way to Hillsboro, Ore., taking my brother Vernon McMillan to his new job. That was really a sad day. Seems like everything just stopped.
— Mary Kendrick, Yakima
• I remember John F. Kennedy’s assassination very well. We lived in Maple Valley in a trailer home court and I was bringing our baby son home when the news came over the radio in the car.
Later on, when I was a Mary Kay consultant, our group went to a convention in Dallas, Texas, and we took a tour with horse and buggy around the route Kennedy traveled. I saw the building and window where he was shot from.
— Joy M. Voss, Grandview
• I was an R.N., at Doctor’s Hospital in Seattle, gowned up in a room changing someone’s dressing when the horrific news of President Kennedy’s murder came on TV. It was hardly believable, certainly unimaginable! A terrible loss.
Making it more poignant was the fact that I was raised in Connecticut and worked in Brighton, Mass., in 1961. That was a city JFK and his family campaigned in. The St. Elizabeth Hospital was where Cardinal Cushing would stay and the Irish-Catholic atmosphere was popular.
One night on the way to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play, we were to cross at a corner and behold, John Kennedy waved at us from his convertible! I can see his eyes in my eyes to this day.
— Barbara Farnsworth, Yakima
• On Nov. 22, 1963, I was stationed in Germany with the 7th Army, 8th Evacuation hospital in the town of Landstuhl as a medical supply specialist.
Our company commander assembled all personnel to announce the assassination of the President John F. Kennedy. The post was put on higher alert for two weeks.
— Ernest Reich, Yakima
• I was in West Berlin, my husband having been stationed there. The Cold War was in full swing. Germany and its capital, Berlin, were divided into East and West. West Germany and West Berlin were divided between the British, French and United States.
When Kennedy was shot, there was no English television for us to watch, so all we had was Armed Forces Network on the radio. So, needless to say, everyone was confused. All AFN said was that the president was dead. No further details were given. Our German friends asked what happened and why. I couldn’t begin to answer them.
As soon as the announcement was made about the assassination, AFN radio immediately began playing dirges. This went on for several days, with no news breaks, advertisements or anything else. Berliners went to the U.S. Embassy and stood in line to sign a guest book that would be sent to Mrs. Kennedy. The line was 10,000 people long. It stayed that way for four or five days. The Berliners had loved President Kennedy.
In Berlin, the U.S. military had tanks, of course. It couldn’t be announced if or when they would be deployed, but they were stationed throughout the American sector. The Army expected the Russians to attack. Therefore, the tanks and my husband were placed on alert, the only time that happened while we were in Berlin. We didn’t take much notice of the tanks, except for the dull rumble and clanking you’d hear in the background.
That’s where I was on November 22, 1963.
— Jeannette Brown, Yakima
• I was 19 years old on Nov. 22, 1963. I was drafted for Vietnam and went into the U.S. Navy. I was in boot camp in San Diego, Calif. My company No. 517 was on the grinder with all the companies, forming 2,000 sailors battalion, doing jumping jacks.
The main drill instructor was on a platform when he called the whole battalion to a halt and to attention.
He stated: “Our commander-in-chief, our president, John F. Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas, and has died today. We will bow our heads for 30 seconds in memory of our commander-in-chief. OK. Back to jumping jacks.”
The battalion started jumping again. I was numb and thinking, “This can’t be true.” When the battalion stopped exercising, all companies “double time” back to the barracks to get more news as to what happened to JFK. Never forgot that day in boot camp.
— Zammie Zamarripa, Yakima
• I was working at Fuller Paint, located at Firview and Roy Street, at the South end of Lake Union in Seattle.
I was 26 years old and managed the main paint warehouse store. This huge five story building housed Fuller Paint’s total Northwest operation.
My feelings were put into total shock when five or six employees heard it on the radio just before noon, Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, that the president was shot in Dallas, Texas.
All of us were saddened unbelievably by this assassination. We just couldn’t understand what was just announced to the world.
It was on a Friday. Everyone was glued to their TV sets and the dramatic weekend coverage the following Saturday for the nation was about to unfold. Lee Harvey Oswald, the killer who shot the president the day before, was moved in the Dallas jail and a person named Jack Ruby pulled out a gun and shot the president’s killer dead. This was all seen on TV by the nation’s viewers.
The drama and the nation sadness from the president’s killing was unreal.
This day by me will never be forgotten.
The president’s birthday is May 29. Mine is May 29 and he would be 96 years old at this 50 year assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The 20 year span of our birthdays puts me at 76 years old.
His strong leadership and decision-making for our country during his first term gave us a real peace at mind.
This assassination will always be a unforgotten day in my lifetime.
— Don McDowell, Yakima
• On the day we lost our president, I was a 12 year old girl in the sixth grade at Roosevelt Grade School. I can remember many of us crying and our teacher saying a prayer for our country.
— Shirley Thomas, Yakima
• We lived in Benton City and at that time a dry cleaning establishment came once a week to your house and picked up your dry cleaning and brought it back the next week. The fellow had just come by to deliver my cleaning and the phone rang. It was my stepmother, Leona Burruss, and she said, “Are you watching your TV?” I said “No.” She said the president has been shot and I said “Oh! No!” So, the cleaner man and I watched mesmerized.
I’ll never forget the look on newsman Walter Cronkite’s face when he announced that the president was dead.
Our family was glued to the TV until after the funeral.
— Lillian Phelps, Prosser
• I do remember when JFK was shot and murdered.
I and four co-workers of Washington Scale Co. were reinstalling the cattle scale at the Toppenish Sales Yard when a man from the office came running out to where we were working and told us that JFK had been shot and killed. He had heard it on the radio.
At first we could not believe that he had been shot. He was a great president.
The sale yard had shutdown for 10 days so we could repair and reinstall the lever system and add a new Toledo scale dial.
— Clarence A. Russell, Yakima
• I was a serious 10-year-old fifth grade student, who had landed in Bellevue, Washington. We had moved several times, which wises up a youngster. Another studious kid, Mike had recently moved from Kansas and it occurred to me, even then, that we understood each other.
On a drizzly fall day, somewhere between Spanish explorers and long division, the overhead loudspeaker came on, the static-filled radio making little sense. I thought that someone must have flipped the switch by accident. Then we heard, “President Kennedy has been shot.” Our teacher Miss Bowden gasped for breath. The kids around me immediately froze, all ears now straining to hear. We heard about the motorcade in Dallas and Gov. Connelly, who was also hit by gunfire. We heard that Jackie Kennedy was leaning over him, making it difficult to see him, to determine his condition.
This young president was my hero. His role as president was lost to me. I only cared about how he interacted with his wife and two children via television and LOOK magazine.
It seems there was a space of time when the intercom went silent. I do not remember what the teacher said or what we did. I do remember that again the intercom was open and then the words, “The President is dead.” Miss Bowden stifled a sob.
When we were dismissed us for lunch and recess, I hesitated on the way to the cafeteria, because I saw Mike breaking out of line from the kids filing into the building. He walked into the courtyard by the office. He fell to his knees before the flagpole. Then I saw him drop his head, folding his hands in front of him, as if he were praying.
I thought him brave, unashamed to show his feelings. I turned aside so no one would see me cry.
I heard some years ago that Seattle Attorney Michael Trickey became a judge for the King County Superior Court. We have not kept in touch. When my husband and I stood before the eternal flame at Kennedy’s grave at Arlington Cemetery, the tears flowed as fresh as they did 50 years ago. And I remembered how Mike paid his respects the day we learned that John F. Kennedy was dead.
— Janice Brazeau, Yakima
• I was in Holy Family grade school in Kirkland. The principal came in the room and said school will be cancelled because the president had been shot. When I got off the school bus, my mom was sitting in front of the TV. That weekend seemed to go in slow motion. Everything after that seemed to change.
— John Beck, Yakima
• My story begins six months before Nov. 2, 1963 when JFK was shot in Dallas. Our daughter was born on President Kennedy’s 49th birthday, May 29, 1963.
My step-father passed away on Nov. 20 and on Nov. 22 we were on the way to visit with the family at my mother’s house when over the car radio, we heard the terrible news that Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. We were in south Texas, and the fact that it had happened in our beloved state was very hard to take. We felt a special bond to the young Kennedy family. Needless to say we were very saddened by the passing of my step father and also President Kennedy.
— Alma Harris, Yakima
• I was in the Army, stationed in Fontainbleu France. My wife, son and I were waiting for the movie theater to open when the announcement was made that President Kennedy was dead. All troops were told to report at once to our duty stations. That was a sad day for all of us. We will never forget that horrible news.
— William A. Munsterman, Yakima
• I was in the seventh grade and former radio personality the “Hutch” and I were in P.E. class. As we always did when we were done, we would snap each other with towels. The P.E. instructor came firing out of his office and told us to get into the wrestling room, we knew this was bad as that’s where we went to get hacks (being swatted as punishment). We got our hacks and as we went back through his office area we heard it on the radio that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. The school allowed some kids to go home early as they were visibly upset. By the time I got to my next class, Walter Cronkite was on the speaker and said it was official: President Kennedy had died at Parkland Hospital. This was my first hack ever and so I remember it with great displeasure. Two months before President Kennedy had come to Hanford to dedicate the Nuclear B Reactor, I was able to go with some classmates so I felt some attachment to that event
— Rudy Ramirez, Yakima
• On the day JFK was shot, I was undergoing surgery at Saint Elizabeth hospital in my hometown of Yakima. I was 15 years old and had failed my freshman basketball physical due to a hernia. The only person I knew of in Texas at the time was Davy Crockett. Later I would join the Navy to see the sea, but the Navy would send me, of all places, to Dallas. To be specific, the now defunct Dallas Naval Air Station.
Back in 1963, televisions were just coming into vogue in hospitals and, even though I was about to undergo surgery, I was delighted to see one hanging from the ceiling in my ward before they took me off to the operating room. When I awoke from the procedure and regained my senses the first thing I asked for was for it to be turned on. Fifty years later, I have no idea what program was on that television, but it wasn’t long before the network broke in with the news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.
There would be no cartoons, no variety shows and no TV westerns for the next three days. It was non-stop reality assassination and murder in Texas, all day and all night. I’m sure I saw more of the televised events unfold live during that time than most or all of my friends and family. I became very familiar with the Book Depository, the grassy knoll and the avenue that passed by both. I also became familiar with Parkland Hospital.
Little did I know as I lay there watching all this unfold, that nine years later I would regularly park near and walk that avenue just blocks from the scene of the assassination while attending classes at El-Centro Community College. I also suspect that the most direct route I would routinely drive from classes at El-Centro to my clinical training at Parkland Hospital probably approximated that of the fatally wounded president.
I am a graduate of the Parkland Hospital School of Radiologic Technology and was in the last group of students to attend the school when it transitioned its hospital based classes to the community college, Class of 1974. I spent many a Friday and Saturday night taking X-rays of patients with broken bones and gunshot wounds in that very same trauma room where the president was attended to.
During our time at Parkland the emergency facilities underwent a major renovation. A few of us students discussed sneaking back in there and getting some fixture or a square of tile off the wall before the room was demolished. Those in charge were way ahead of us though. The night we slipped passed the construction barriers and between plastic dust curtains we found the room had already been quietly disassembled before the demolition of that part of the facilities was even announced. I understand, all the permanent fixtures and tile were shipped to Washington D.C. where they are now in one of the government’s historical institutions.
— Richard Benoit, Iredell, Texas
• In November of 1963 I was living in Germany, as my husband was in the military. We lived in a German village and had no television. I listened to U.S. Armed Forces radio all day because I loved the classical music they aired, so I heard the news right away. I was so distraught, I cried uncontrollably for days.
My daughter, Valerie, was just 9 days old and was nursing. I was so upset that my milk soured and my daughter refused to nurse for three days. Luckily, my milk returned to normal and I was able to nurse her again.
Valerie certainly knows about the significance of that date because I have told her this story so many times. I am now 72 years old and I still choke up whenever I think of the loss of President Kennedy, who was such a wonderful symbol of hope to so many people and to the country.
— Betty Mann, Toppenish