YOUR STORIES: Remembering Nov. 22, 1963
The Herald asked readers what they remember about the day President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. Here's what they told us: Glenice Johnson, Thief River Falls: Anyone who was living and able to remember certainly knows exactly where they we...
The Herald asked readers what they remember about the day President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. Here's what they told us:
Glenice Johnson, Thief River Falls:
Anyone who was living and able to remember certainly knows exactly where they were and what they were doing on Nov. 22, 1963.
I was a senior at the University of Minnesota. I had attended my morning classes (with no interruption -- before the days of cellphone and instant news).
I returned to my sorority house for lunch and found no one in the dining room or kitchen, no chatter or clink of dishes. Then I heard the TV and muffled gasps or sobs coming from the basement.
I hurried down to find several "sisters" staring at the horrible scenes and news reporters as they related the shooting of our president, John F. Kennedy, in Dallas. No one returned to classes that afternoon; no one prepared or ate lunch that day; the campus was subdued and quiet for many days as further events unfolded -- I will never forget watching LBJ being sworn in with Lady Bird and Jackie Kennedy witnessing it on board Air Force One, the funeral procession, Caroline and John standing by their mother with the small son saluting.
I had an earlier memory of JFK when he was campaigning in the Twin Cities in 1962. There was a DFL "bean feed" at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul and we were all aware that JFK was to attend.
I was living in an apartment on Larpenteur -- a main avenue from the Fairgrounds.
About midnight, I heard sirens and said, "I bet that's Kennedy being escorted back from the fairgrounds."
My hair in curlers, in pajamas and robe, I ran outside and across the street to stand under the street light (to be on the nearest side to his vehicle).
Sure enough, with police escort's sirens wailing, there was JFK sitting alone in a lighted limousine. I waved excitedly at him, and he returned my wave with a big smile. There was no doubt he was directing it at me -- I was the only person standing along a lonely street at midnight!
His leadership, persona and inspiration definitely impacted by life the past 50 years. While working as a community educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, I helped serve many communities, families and youth.
I actively participated in election campaigns for local, state and national DFL candidates with door-to-door literature, lawn signs and caucuses.
Although not through the Peace Corps, I lived with many host families overseas through international "people-to-people" exchange programs, hoping to promote better understanding and peaceful interaction -- in India (including an extensive session with Indira Gandhi), Japan, Sweden and Norway.
Our family has hosted many international exchangees from Brazil, China, Australia, Japan, Norway and Finland. As a faculty adviser to the International-Multi-cultural Club, this passion was carried further as we worked on various projects, fundraisers, dinners, and cultural activities with students from 20-plus countries.
Perhaps many of these interests and activities would have happened anyway, but I truly believe the seed was planted by the inspiring vision of John F. Kennedy.
Marjorie Sweeney, Grand Forks:
Yes, I remember the day our young, handsome president was killed.
I was making pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. I remember crying, and the tears were falling in the pumpkin mixture.
I was so in shock; I couldn't have felt any worse, if he had been my brother.
For the very first time, we had a very young, tall and so handsome, and an "Irish Catholic" president and in one terrible act of violence, he was dead.
I did not want to believe that he was dead, not "our president of the United States."
When Thanksgiving comes each year, I still remember it like it was yesterday.
I was glued to the TV throughout the terrible dark days that followed, until the funeral was over. What a terrible waste of human life.
Like President Kennedy said: "If the Lord isn't watching the city, the guards are watching in vain."
Merlyn Stauss, Grand Forks:
I was doing some last-minute wedding preparations for my wedding day the next day, Nov. 23, 1963. My mother and I were having lunch at Johnny's Cafe, next to the old Chiefs ballpark when we heard that he was shot.
Gary Stauss, Grand Forks:
I was getting ready for our wedding the next day. Some said that we were too young and it would never last. I guess that it is too early to prove that untrue, but the first 50 years sure seem to go well!
Oben Gunderson, Grand Forks:
I have a special interest in JFK that started when my wife and I attended his inauguration parade.
My wife's brother was in the Secret Service, assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy.
We were on our way from our farm to Larimore (N.D.) when we heard about the assassination. We were on (N.D.) Highway 18 about two miles before it crosses (U.S.) Highway 2.
It was first reported that a Secret Service agent also had been killed. We were very worried that it might be her brother, until a correction was made.
We were glued to the TV for many days.
Barry Hogan: Glendale, Ariz.
My older brother and I, then ages 10 and 11, attended the event in September 1963 when JFK visited Grand Forks.
We were both students at St. Mary's Elementary School. My father -- 100 percent Irish Catholic -- took us out of school for part of the day. We went to the UND Fieldhouse and waited for the speeches, which seemed like a long wait for us young ones. We stood back with the crowd on the fieldhouse dirt floor, where the Shrine Circus shows were held.
President Kennedy gave his speech, my father lifted up my brother or me a couple of times to see better. I could not make much of the speech, something really uninteresting about agriculture. When we got home, my mother asked how it went and chastised my father for having us watch the speech when we should have been outside to see the helicopter land and the president escorted in.
My brother and I were OK with it all because we did get out of school.
I also recall the 1960 election, lots of talk, neighborhood women having coffee groups, and our nuns at school wearing campaign buttons -- making us feel how important it was. Both parties had campaign offices near each other in the downtown, so my friends and I could get signs, stickers, buttons, etc. from each, although it seemed the Republicans' office had way more to give away.
On the day of the assassination, we got word at school of the shooting. The nuns took us all into the attached church so we could pray for the president. My father later hung a portrait of the president in our home and we had a well-worn copy of "The Torch is Passed" by the AP. In later years, the portrait came down as my parents became "law-and-order" Republicans and I expressed my dislike for the Vietnam War. My own two sons and I have shared an interest in politics since, sharing books by Theodore White on "The Making on the President-1960," "Profiles in Courage," and a trip the sixth floor in Dallas. But they never got out of school!
Lois Stensrud, Thief River Falls:
The day President Kennedy was shot I was a Linotype operator at the Minneota Mascot. Ragnar and Ada Guttormsson were the owners. Minneota is a small town in southwestern Minnesota.
It was a gray day with low clouds scudding before a northerly wind. A few of autumn's last leaves were blowing along the street. Snow hadn't yet put in its appearance, but it wouldn't be long before winter showed its long, white nose.
The morning was the usual hustle bustle of a busy newsroom. None of us anticipated such a catastrophic event. How could we?
We had just taken a break for noon lunch. I was on my way back to work when a friend stopped me and screamed, "President Kennedy's been shot!"
She was always good for a joke, so I said, "Really?" She replied and her face told the whole story.
Gloom hung over the shop that afternoon. The radio spewed out words we hoped we weren't hearing.
Everyone went about their normal work, but it felt like we were moving in slow motion.
I will never forget that day."
Allen Olson, former North Dakota governor, Chanhassen, Minn.:
Every Nov. 22 for the past 49 years, I have recalled the very same details as if it happened earlier today. I and some 10 other U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAGC) First Lieutenants had just arrived by car at the JAGC School associated with the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Law in Charlottesville, Va. We had driven separately over the previous few days from Fort Benning, Ga., where we had successfully completed the Infantry Officer Basic Course as a prerequisite for continuing our JAGC preparation at the UVA.
It was early afternoon and the first reports of the Dallas shooting were just coming in. We were listening over car radios in the parking lot of the Bachelor Officer's Quarters (BOQ) when Walter Cronkite broke in with the news that President Kennedy had died of a bullet wound in a Dallas, Texas, hospital.
We, like most of the rest of the world, were stunned. But some were not. I recall that a young man, probably a UVA student, was dribbling a basketball across the back portion of the parking lot. When one of my colleagues blurted out to him "My God, the president is dead" the young man's response was, "So what."
Our JAGC School session was immediately postponed for an indefinite period. Being at loose ends, I decided to drive the relatively short trip from Charlottesville into Washington, D.C. and visit a University of North Dakota School of Law classmate, Miklos (Mike) Lonkai, who had escaped with his family from Hungary and Soviet domination in the mid-1950s and who was then working in the General Counsel's office of the U.S. Coast Guard in D.C. We spent the evening into the early hours of the next day reminiscing and mourning President Kennedy's assassination.
Taking Mike back to his apartment, we were stopped at Constitution Avenue to allow the president's official party and, presumably, his body to pass on their way back to the White House.
I had taken a motel room in Alexandria, Va, across the Potomac River from D.C. with plans to stay through the president's funeral when my temporary assignment to the JAGC School would require my return to Charlottesville. However, the mood in D.C., reflecting the nation as a whole, was so depressing I decided to return to Charlottesville where my JAGC colleagues and I watched the funeral on television as the world mourned and wondered what might happen next.
Marilyn Bjerke, Grand Forks:
I was the art teacher at Elroy Schroeder Jr. High.
At noon that day (Nov. 22, 1963), I was adding a coat of paint to the 8-foot plywood Santa Claus for the outdoor open court. I made the design of the project approved by Principal Richard Hill. The lumber was purchased at Ireland's Lumber and cut out by the industrial arts department.
During painting, another faculty member walked in and told me the president had been shot in Dallas. I put away the paints and went to the faculty lunch area and listened to the radio. Decided to return to my art room -- along the way, students were crying and some were checking out to go home.
The afternoon classes were difficult -- some wanted to talk about what happened and others worked on their art projects. Many talked about the September 1963 visit of President Kennedy at the UND Fieldhouse (that morning we were excused to go to the fieldhouse).
The Santa was finished and out in the courtyard in early December. Ninth-grade art students and the custodian got it done.
I continued teaching at Schroeder until 1993. That summer, I gave away my Kennedy collection to a student very interested in the president and politics.
Pauline Bondy, Grand Forks:
I remember Nov. 22, 1963 quite well.
I was making lefse that afternoon when the doorbell rang. Being my hands were all floured, I yelled, "Come in." (I didn't lock the doors during the day, back then).
In walks Betty Ulvedal and the first thing she says as she enters was, "Did you hear Kennedy got shot?"
"No, I hadn't," I replied. What a surprise.
It was also my son, Gary's 9th birthday, so I was very busy, no time for TV until evening.
If I remember correctly, there was no snow -- rather a mild day.
Vivian Peterson, Crookston:
Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 was the most important day of my life. It was my wedding day.
The sun was shining as I got to work at 6 a.m. at the Sweet Shop in Crookston.
It was about break time when I heard JFK had been shot. It was cloudy at that time.
Just as my break was over, I heard he had died. I remember feeling so sad. When I finally got off work at 2:30 p.m., it was drizzling and raining at that time. All I could think of was the Kennedy family and Dick (my .... husband). I was wondering what Dick was thinking. There was no way of getting hold of him.
Finally, it was time to get ready for the wedding. All I thought about then was the wedding. It was starting to sleet by that time. My brother (Deltran) took me to the church.
By the time the reception was over, it was storming, so we never got out of town until the next morning. I never thought much about JFK until we (saw) it on TV at the Paul Bunyan Hotel in Bemidji. It has never spoiled our anniversaries, but has always been on our minds.
It has stormed for the next 35 years on our anniversary. It is an anniversary we will never forget for many reasons.
Cindy Dahl, Grand Forks:
I remember the day very well. I was only 4½ years old at the time, but the story has been told by my parents and me so many times over the years that I can still see myself running out into the yard to get my dad (on our farm near Northwood, N.D.).
My dad, Orphie Dahl, would tell the story this way:
'I was feeding cattle in the front feed lot and turned to see Cindy running across the yard toward me. She was saying something and running as fast as her little legs could go.
'I went to meet her and tried to understand what she was saying. She said, "Predident Keddidy dot shot, Predident Keddidy dot shot, Mama and Lorraine cryin."
'I wasn't able to understand her little excited voice, but did know she was telling me someone in the house was crying. I picked up Cindy and we headed for the house. There in the living room I found Ardyce and cousin Lorraine both crying. When I asked what happened they said "President Kennedy got shot." I said, 'That's what Cindy was trying to tell me, but it didn't make any sense."
Jeff Keller, Pembina, N.D.:
On Friday, (Nov. 22, 1963), I was 5 years old. I was in the living room of our home in Pembina, N.D.
I was watching a cartoon featuring "Woody the Woodpecker" on Channel 7 (CKY out of Winnipeg). They interrupted the program to report that "shots had been fired in Dallas at the president's motorcade." I left the living room and walked past the dining room table where my father was eating lunch.
He said, "Why the long face, Jeffer?" I replied, "They took 'Woody the Woodpecker' off the air." He said, "I wonder why they did that? I answered, 'Oh, that Kennedy guy got shot.'"
With that, he leaped up from the table and guided me to the living room where we watched several minutes of news reports. He and I then walked to the train depot just west of our house, where he was checking the freight trains for U.S. Customs that were coming through Pembina from Canada that day. When we got to the depot, one of the railroad employees informed us that President Kennedy had died.
Other memories I have are that we attended church that night at the Methodist Church in Pembina and that our television was on almost continuously for the next several days. I also noted that people seemed very sad.
As I grew older and looked back on this event, it has made me realize how precious life is and how we never know what the future holds. JFK's words in his inauguration address about asking not what your country can do for you but ask instead what you can do for your country is something I have attempted to live by since I have advanced past the selfish days of young adulthood.
Paul Korsmo, Northwood, N.D.:
In 1963 I was 9 years old. We were on our way to Houston to visit my mom's sister and her family for Thanksgiving. I remember being somewhere around Yankton, S.D., when we heard on the car radio that President Kennedy had been shot.
My dad said, "If we drive hard, we will be in Dallas by tomorrow sometime."
As we pulled into Dallas, we drove through the downtown area. I can remember flowers everywhere in downtown Dallas.
We were standing across the street from the courthouse in the midst of a large crowd. We heard they were going to be moving the suspect Lee Harvey Oswald from the courthouse to another location.
All of a sudden there was a commotion among the crowd. When we asked people around us if they knew what happened, someone said, "Some guy just shot Lee Harvey Oswald."
Over all these years when I've seen pictures, I have thought back to how close we were to this piece of history. It seems everyone remembers where they were when JFK was shot.
John Evenson, Edinburg, N.D.:
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was teaching science and serving as high school principal in the Edinburg (N.D.) High School system. I was conducting a science class when Allyn Fagerholt, a good friend of mine and a math teacher in the Edinburg School system, stopped by my classroom and said that President Kennedy had been shot.
There was much confusion and sobbing by the students that took place at that time. We got hold of a radio and tried to get the latest facts. We didn't have access to a TV in the classroom.
I went out deer hunting after school, but I never got out of the pickup as I wanted to listen to the radio and get all the facts. I did learn on the radio that the Edinburg PTO Fun Night had been postponed because of the tragic event. The Fun Night consisted of a program by the students and a food sale which raised a lot of money for the school.
I spent a great deal of time watching TV that weekend and, on Friday evening, I learned that a good friend of mine, Clint Hill, was the Secret Service Agent who jumped on the limousine to shield Jackie Kennedy from the gunfire.
Clint Hill grew up in Washburn, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, in 1954, a year after I graduated from Concordia.
Clint and I both served in the military after we graduated, and Clint went on to make a career in the U.S. Secret Service.
While a student at Concordia, Clint was a starter on the Cobber football team.
I haven't had any contact with Clint since I graduated from Concordia. I have read two books about Clint Hill and his work in the Secret Service. The two books are titled "The Kennedy Detail" and "Mrs. Kennedy and Me," authored by Clint Hill.
Blanchard and Doris Krogstad, Winger, Minn.:
The impact of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was felt immediately through the world, even in the town of Toluca, Mexico. We were in a large market in this scenic town at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet when a vendor with a radio saw us, beckoned, and exclaimed, "tu presidente es murio" and pointed his finger to his head and said "boom." Immediately we saw the look of anguish on many faces, and in a moment, many were weeping openly, wiping their tears with their aprons.
There was an unusual silence for maybe 15 or more minutes. Soon, news boys were on the street calling out the news and selling a small newspaper special with 6-inch block letters on the front that stated, "MURIO, JOHN F. KENNEDY."
It included an earlier photo of JFK and a story about the Dallas parade and the tragedy. All copies were sold before we reached a newsboy.
A well-dressed man noticed this and presented us with his copy, saying, "For you, I s'pose you knew him."
This copy is an important bit of our memorabilia from this year in Mexico.
Rita Mielke, Edinburg, N.D.:
I remember it as if it was yesterday.
I was having a noon meal at the Delta Zeta house on the UND campus. During the meal, one of the gals came in to say President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.
We all sat there in shock. I left for my 1 o'clock shorthand class in Merrifield Hall. The instructor was at least 6 feet 2 inches tall and a bruiser of a guy.
He stood before the class of girls and just cried. He told us to just leave and go back to our dorms. Later on that evening, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I went out for the evening. Every radio station played music that was so sad and somber.
President Kennedy had been to Grand Forks just a few weeks before he was killed. I remember him coming to UND. I even bought a new skirt and sweater to wear to go see him. I also remember the following day being glued to the television and watched Jack Ruby shoot and kill Lee Harvey Oswald. This horrible event left a huge impact on me, and I know many, many other people.
Tom Gerszewski, Minto, N.D.:
I can vividly remember like so many thousands of people do on that particular tragic day in history.
Mine was that I had just finished with my Army schooling right after basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. I was assigned to the Medical Detachment for my AIT (advanced individual training). Just a couple of days before Kennedy's assassination, I had a freak accident and broke my right big toe and was put into a device to help the toe heal.
Here I was hobbling around on that memorable Nov. 22, 1963 day. At first we only heard like everyone else that he was shot and everyone was in total shock. Here our commander in chief has been shot and then, of course, later the awful news that he had died.
Immediately, we -- meaning everyone at the Medical Detachment who could -- moved outside in a very solemn mood and stood in formation to honor our fallen president.
I believe we were put on alert immediately after his death, but I can say while we all stood there with heads bowed in respect and disbelief what had just happened to our beloved president and country.
I am very proud I could participate with my broken toe and show respect to one of our finest presidents. I truthfully believe our country has never been the same since that tragic day in history. I will never forget!!!!
Jeanette Jarman, Grand Forks:
I remember the day very well. I was teaching fourth grade at Sweetwater School in Devils Lake. It was also my last day of teaching as I was being married the following day, Nov. 23, l963.
Our principal came into our room to announce the death.
One of the students then said, "Now I'll have two reasons to cry today!" Were my husband still living, we would also be celebrating our 50th anniversary.
Camille Kertz, Langdon, N.D.:
I was 6 years old (the same age as Caroline Kennedy) when JFK was assassinated. I had no idea what a president was or what assassination meant. I remember sitting in my first-grade desk and listening to the guidance counselor of the high school, also the husband of my teacher, tell us about the tragedy.
John Sherack, Thief River Falls:
Friday, November 22, 1963 was my birthday. I was at home over the noon hour for lunch when the news came over television that shots had been fired at the president's motorcade in Dallas. About an hour later in U.S. history class, the principal broke in over the public address system with the news that President John F. Kennedy was dead.
Our instructor, Mr. Frank Kne, said a few words which I can't remember. I do remember the stunned look on Mr. Kne's face and how quiet the classroom became.
The impact of Nov. 22, 1963 was a collective loss of innocence. We had studied tragic events, such as assassinations, in history classes, but with a sense of detachment. Those events were in the past and we really couldn't relate to them. That all changed 50 years ago; we're all dealing with how fragile (even a president's) life is and how quickly it can change.
Paulette Dvorak, Grand Forks:
On Nov. 22, 1963 my husband and I were staying in Drayton, N.D. We were babysitting his brothers. I was watching television, and Walter Cronkite broke into the program.
He said that President Kennedy had been shot. I was stunned and started to cry. President Kennedy was such a bright light for all of us. His beautiful family; his sadness at losing a child; and his bright smile. The country could relate to him.
I sat in front of the television the whole day. My tears would not stop. Then Walter Cronkite came on again and said the president was dead, and he gave the exact time. I watched the events as they unfolded (after) the actual shooting, Mrs. Kennedy's pink suit with blood on it, and the swearing in of Lyndon Johnson on the plane.
I watched the funeral, the salute from John-John, and the bravery of Jackie, Bobbie and Ted as they walked behind the caisson. You could see the pain on all of the faces.
As I write this, I have tears that want to fall. A very sad day for America.
Dave Vorland, Bloomington, Minn.:
On the day Kennedy died I was studying in the University of North Dakota's journalism lab. At 12:38 p.m., a bell sounded and the Associated Press teletype printed a special alert. JFK had been shot and seriously wounded in Dallas. Later, I recalled what Professor James Herndon had told my political science class. Politics was a substitute for violence, dependent upon a very fragile public consensus. On Nov. 22, 1963, I wondered if that social contract was unraveling. And I still do.
Karen Jorde, Leeburg, Va.:
The Kennedy assassination is probably my first real "independent" memory. I was just over 3½ that November.
We were having lunch when the news broke. Both of my parents were home for lunch because my dad was on a 3-11 shift at the North Dakota Mill. My mom always had the kitchen radio on and tuned to KNOX. I had started to say something when the first bulletin was broadcast.
Midsentence, my dad "shh'd" me in a tone of voice I had never heard before. He had such a stricken look on his face. I didn't understand right away what the problem was, but kind of like for a Gray Parrot, my dad's tone stuck in my mind and made me remember it. I think after the first bulletin, my dad got up from the table, went into the living room and turned on the TV. So we probably had both the TV and the radio on when the second bulletin came through.
We watched the news coverage nonstop for the next three days. While watching the funeral, I became fascinated by "Black Jack" the rider-less horse. After I moved to Virginia, I went to the stable at Fort Meyer and saw Black Jack's stall and the caissons.
I once said thought were having hamburger hot dish for lunch that day, but in a very flat tone my mom said, "No. Roast beef."
After the assassination, my mom ordered the book "The Torch is Passed..." The book is a compilation of all the original Associated Press stories and photos published from the day of the Kennedy assassination through the day of the funeral. The AP published the book in 1964, and they distributed it through local newspapers.
Our copy has "Grand Forks Herald Grand Forks, North Dakota" stamped in red on the page before the title page. That book is one of the most prized vintage books I own.
Patricia Bohnet, Grand Forks:
I was 10 years old. I had been home for lunch and returned to school and was waiting outside the south door of West Grade School in Grand Forks to be let back in for the afternoon session. I remember the shock of hearing that the president had been shot and was dead. I don't remember anything of the afternoon, but do remember sobbing during supper that evening with my parents and younger sister over what had happened and how could that happen and remembering that he had been in Grand Forks just a few weeks before.
Sandi L. Bates, Bismarck:
My dad, Kenneth M. Bates, was a young North Dakota highway patrolman who helped guard the JFK contingent when they came to North Dakota in September 1963. He drove the lead car in the motorcade from Grand Forks Air Force Base in to the UND Fieldhouse, where Kennedy was to speak. Riding with him were Kennedy's press secretary Pierre Salinger and two reporters.
My dad said his instructions were to "drive 55 mph, not a mile faster and not a mile slower and run over your own mother if she steps out in front of you."
During the 20-minute or so drive in, Dad said the reporters were continually complaining to Salinger that they were not getting enough exposure to the president. He said at one point Salinger turned around and said, "Shut the (expletive) up or I'll have him shoot you!!" It suddenly got very quiet in the car.
Robert Rost, sheriff, Grand Forks County:
Remembering Nov. 22, 1963, I was 14 years old, attending Tillicum Jr. High School in Bellevue, Wash.
I was sitting in my home room doing a term paper when an announcement came over the loud speaker saying that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas, while riding in a motorcade. It wasn't known at the time what his condition was, so the teacher in my classroom turned on the TV in the classroom and we watched as the details unfolded.
Then they announced that President Kennedy had passed away. We all looked at each other in disbelief. I thought to myself who could have done something like this and what will happen to the country. We pretty much watched the TVs in all classrooms all day and continued at home in the evening.
I thought President Kennedy was the best president that we ever had, and I still think that today. I still get this empty feeling in my stomach even writing down my feelings about that day. Could history have been changed, had he not been assassinated?
Clare Carlson, Bismarck:
I was in Miss Widme's second-grade class at McKinley Grade School in Crookston. Just after lunch Mrs. Kotts, the third-grade teacher, came into our classroom and said the president had been shot.
Larry Zea, Blackduck, Minn.:
I was a member of the U.S. Navy Band "Sea Chanters" in Washington, D.C., from 1957 to 1970.
Part of our mission was to provide after-dinner entertainment for state dinners at the White House, and I did this with the "Sea Chanters" for presidents Eisenhower through Nixon.
Being a Navy man, President Kennedy had us at the White House more than the other presidents, as I recall.
I do remember our group being invited to the White House Christmas party in December of 1962 given for those who worked in the White House, and being greeted by the president and Mrs. Kennedy in a receiving line as we entered the party area. Also, every time we performed there, we were provided with a good meal and drinks, which was not the case with the other presidents.
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was driving in my 1957 Chevrolet from southern Maryland to my home in Marlow Heights, Md., when I heard the news of the assassination of President Kennedy. In addition to being a singer with the "Sea Chanters," I played French horn in the band for large ceremonial occasions. The next two days were spent practicing marching at the Washington Navy Yard, the location of our headquarters, for the funeral parade.
Nov. 25 was a cold day for D.C., probably not for northern Minnesota, where I have lived since 1970.
The Navy Band was the lead band in the parade, following President De Gaulle of France, who led the parade, the caisson, and the riderless horse. It was a cold march to St. Matthew's Cathedral, where the funeral Mass was held, and many homeowners opened their houses for us to relieve ourselves while we waited for the Mass to end.
Then, we marched across the Memorial Bridge to Arlington Cemetery for the burial. It was a memorable day for a 26-year-old Navy musician at the time, and still is.
LaVerne Hanson, Strathcona, Minn.:
As I recall, we were in Rapid City, S.D., for my sister-in-law's funeral. Coming from a large family (13 children) some of my brothers had served in World War II and now were married, had families of their own.
So immediately, the first thought that came to mind was, of course, World War III maybe erupting and my family was thinking of their own sons, who they thought would maybe be drafted and sent to war. But it didn't turn out this way.
I was living in Middle River, Minn., at the time, but now reside in Strathcona, Minn. My husband, Harvey, was fortunate to see President Kennedy in Grand Forks when he landed there at the University of North Dakota, as he was working at the university. What an impact it made on our lives.
Janie Zon Alvernaz, Grand Forks:
It's Nov. 22, 1963, 1:10 p.m. I'm a senior at Grand Forks Central High School. It's after our lunch hour and I'm in Mr. Edward Bohnhoff's U.S. history class.
The intercom system came on and announced that the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, has been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
A hush and gasp in the classroom, then tears and sobs from some students started. Some cried so deeply they walked out of the classroom. FEAR!!!
My soon-to-be husband (the next September) was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force base "on alert." He was a jet mechanic, and I wasn't able to see him for more than a week as he also had to be a security guard, carrying a loaded rifle along the fence lines that went around the bombers on the flight line. The fear of our Air Force Base being attacked or worse, bombed. FEAR!!!
Reality to us all that our country was in shock, unknown questions for everyone and most of all, why?
He was such an honored president and why was he assassinated and who did it.
Television sets and radios were on with whatever news we could get for days. FEAR!!!
I'm still having cold chills as I write this letter to you in remembrance of that terrible Nov. 22, 1963. We lost our leader and knew our country was in danger at any time.
A moment never forgotten.
Inez and Russell Kappes, Greenbush, Minn.:
On Nov. 22, 1963, my husband and I and our 1-year-old son were in our pickup listening to the radio when we heard President Kennedy had been shot.
We were on our way to my sister's farm home near Ada, Minn.
My husband and brother-in-law Ray went out to do some work. My sister and I listened and watched the television to see what was happening. We said a prayer for him and his family when we heard he died.
At the time, I was overdue with our second child. What I remember most was the booming drums of the funeral. I walked the hospital halls and heard the sound and also saw the television on, all covering the funeral.
We had our daughter, Denise, on Nov. 25, 1963.
So with the joy of birth, we saw and felt the sadness and pain of the Kennedy family.
David Stromlund, Thief River Falls:
I was a fifth-grade teacher in Greenbush, Minn., on Nov. 22, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
A student of mine who was out of the room came back in. He said, "Mr. Stromlund, the president has been shot." He heard it in the hall from students.
I immediately went into the hall to find out what had happened. I met the school custodian. When I asked him about the president having been shot, he immediately said it was so. I returned to my classroom to inform my class.
There was dead silence and shock.
Soon, the superintendent canceled school for the day.
I will always remember this day as a sad event.
Jacqueline Burke, Crookston:
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was returning home on a Greyhound bus from a funeral in Billings, Mont. The bus driver announced, "Your president, John F. Kennedy, has been shot." We were all shocked. When the bus made a stop in Bismarck, the driver announced that Kennedy had died. None of us had lived during an assassination.
He has been our only Catholic president. He was one of the youngest.
I have been to Washington, D.C., twice and visited his gravesite with the eternal flame.
We were brought up to honor our president.
I lived in this Camelot era. I was intrigued because his wife had the same first name as mine. It was spelled the same.
I have read the book he wrote, "Profiles in Courage." I have also read many books written about him. The latest, "Killing Kennedy," by Bill O'Reilly.
Tom Gabrielsen, Grand Forks:
Fifty years ago, my wife and I were teaching in McVille, N.D.
Nov. 22 would be my 26th birthday. My wife had invited the McVille High School staff to come and have a piece of birthday cake with us that evening.
While I was supervising study hall that day, the principal announced what had happened in Dallas, Texas. Needless to say, there was no party that evening.
Everyone was feeling so distraught -- and glued to their TV sets. Such a sad time for our country.
We had two little children at that time and felt so much empathy for Mrs. Kennedy and her children.
President Kennedy was such a favorite.
Bonnie Gorden, Climax, Minn.:
I remember the day very well. I was sitting at my desk during study hall when the teacher told us he had been assassinated. It was such a shock and it was a very sad day.
I think the funeral procession with the hearse and horses going along the streets in Washington, D.C., was the saddest time and a day we won't forget. He was a great president and gone too soon.
Phyllis Dokken, Beltrami, Minn.:
At the Fertile (Minn.) School, Miss Krause was my typing instructor. She announced to the class: the president has been shot. Then a little while later, she announced he had died.
The school was closed for four days. People watched the funeral on the black-and-white TVs.
All I can say is life goes on for another day, but nobody forgets.
Charlie Bremseth, Grand Forks:
It was 1978 at United Hospital. My son, Christopher, was to have a minor operation.
The evening before the surgery the anesthesiologist came to the room to have me sign the required documents. As we were talking his accent caught my attention. To me it sounded like he was from the Virginia-Washington D.C.-Maryland area. Since I had lived in the D.C. metro area, I asked him about it and he said yes, that he grew up in Virginia. I said that I had gone to junior high school in Virginia, and since he seemed to be about my age, I asked him when he had to school.
He said in the early 1960s. I told him that I went to Kenmore Junior High School in Arlington, Va. He said had gone to school at Kenmore also. And as we visited I found that by asking one question: "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" I would find out how we were connected. I remembered where I was when President Kennedy was shot, everybody who was old enough would remember -- I happened to be in band class in eighth grade. He said, "I was in Mrs. Marcelles's band class." Come to find out he was sitting right next to me in the trombone section. Together we would hear over the intercom, "President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas, today. He died a short time ago. School will be dismissing early. Buses will be arriving shortly."
It was a short visit, only a very few minutes at best. He was moving back to Virginia the next day. We never saw each other again.
Duane Myklejord, Fosston, Minn.:
Thousands of Americans joined the Peace Corps, and I was one of them.
I immediately signed up and on July 1, 1964, a group of 54 Peace Corps trainees began our training program at the University of Arizona, Mexico, Puerto Rico, then to Panama.
I was stationed in Germany with the 3rd Infantry Division when I heard about JFK's initiating of the Peace Corps, and of course, JFK made that famous speech in Berlin on June 26, 1963, "Ich bin ein Berliner" at the Berlin Wall.
I was in Germany when the wall came on Aug. 13, 1961. Wherever I traveled in Europe or Latin America, JFK was adored and worshipped.
Linda Seim, Park River, N.D.:
On Nov. 22nd, 1963 I was a freshman nursing student at Sisters of St. Joseph School of Nursing based out of St. Michael's Hospital in Grand Forks.
Just a few short weeks before, there had been a great flurry of activity as the Sisters at St. Michael's made preparations for President Kennedy's visit to Grand Forks. An entire wing of St. Michaels was prepared in the event that the president should need medical care while in Grand Forks. Rumor had it that there were special linens on the bed, and other luxuries not afforded an ordinary patient.
It was a very exciting time. Now the students were all assembled and told the tragic news that this vibrant young president was dead. Classes were canceled for the rest of the week, but we were told that we could not leave to go home or elsewhere, but rather were to stay and pray and meditate.
We were all riveted to the small black-and-white TV in our nurse's lounge on the fifth floor of St. Mike's, and I remember sobbing as if a close family member had died, as we watched the events unfold.
This was the first president that had been a real person to us, someone with a family we had come to know and love. I can't recall being as captivated by any TV coverage again, until 9/11 occurred.
Shelby Harken, Manvel, N.D.:
I go back to early fall of 1963 when I was a high school student. My best friend and I were helping her mother who was working at the local Democratic Party campaign office on behalf of John Hove and other Democratic candidates.
We were handing out buttons, hanging posters, and stuffing envelopes. When my mother heard Kennedy was coming to speak, we both decided it was such an important event that vacation from school and work was worth it.
As it turned out, we were seated two rows in front of Mark Andrews and appeared in the Grand Forks Herald in a picture of Andrews taken during the coverage of the Kennedy's speech.
That picture was important to me and I have been sad I lost my copy of the article. I really felt I was a part of history.
I had been helping in the Hove campaign and here I was pictured with his opponent. A month later, Mark Andrews won the election to Congress. And then in November I was returning from lunch to my 1 p.m. class when an announcement was made over the intercom that Kennedy had been shot.
I was utterly shocked at the news -- I was in total disbelief.
A year ago, I was at a conference in Dallas and walked more than a mile from my hotel to Dealey Plaza.
That sense of disbelief and sadness returned. It reminded me that my friend's father believed life was so special that we should not waste a moment of it. Kennedy's life was cut short too soon. I hope I have not wasted mine.
On Nov. 22, 1963 I was only 10½ years old -- turned 11 on Nov. 26, 1963. I was in the fifth grade and the class had just come in from recess and we got an announcement over the intercom that JFK has been assassinated. Ever since this happened to JFK, I have followed Jackie, John Jr. and Caroline very closely and how they adapted to life. ... It made me more aware of surroundings from that day on, and I still can remember the day clear as a bell, when JFK was killed and Jack Ruby came through the crowd to kill Oswald -- how shattering that was to see on the news and hear all the chaos of all the tragedy.
I followed Jackie and the family for years. Still do. Just think of what JFK would have done for our country. I was so proud of JFK and his brothers.
Nov. 22 was an eerie day. I worked for North Central Airlines at the ticket counter at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. I missed my shuttle bus because I was mesmerized by the news. The airport, generally noisy with children and parent or complaining passengers, that day it was like a morgue. Quiet, people almost whispered, no one argued with anyone, including us ticket agents. I shall never forget that day. So sad, so awesome, so unnatural.
I will always remember Nov. 22, 1963. I had just turned 7 years old and was a first-grader at Roosevelt Elementary in Grand Forks. It was after lunch. It was a sunny afternoon ... the sun was streaming into the large windows that faced the west. Mrs. Anderson was our teacher and she was wearing a black-and-white checkered dress. I sat in the middle row, third seat from the front. All of sudden, she was waived by someone to leave the room. A few minutes later she came back crying. Then, our principal, Mr. Morken, got on the intercom and told us the President Kennedy had died in Dallas due to a gunshot wound and that classes would be dismissed early, and we were to go home. When I got home, my mother was crying.