Memories abound on this tragic day

My father was in the Navy with “Jack” Kennedy. My father’s boat, the PT 59, was the boat that rescued Kennedy after his 109 had been hit by enemy fire. Kennedy would later become skipper of the PT 59. During the brief time Dad knew Kennedy, he described him as a gentleman, a leader who treated all members of the crew as equals and a great jokester. Everyone got along with him.

I remember Nov. 22, 1963, as being a hot, still and humid day; slightly overcast. School was dismissed early, after the grim announcement of Kennedy’s assassination. I remember how still and hushed everything seemed on that walk home from school, as if the world could hardly believe what had happened. At home, my mother told my father, who had been sleeping because he worked nights. It was the first time I had seen my father cry. He’d lost a friend.

Our family has wonderful memories of Kennedy, and the friendship he shared with my father in the Navy. I recall that a special meeting had been arranged by Kennedy’s secretary for our family to meet him after a scheduled speech to be given in War Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo. Sadly, the crowds were too great, and Kennedy never made it up to the room where we all waited to meet him. A letter of apology from Kennedy to my father followed shortly thereafter. After Kennedy became president, an invitation to the inauguration arrived in the mail. What memories!

Nov. 22 still holds a particularly poignant significance for our family. How many people can say, “My father was a friend of Kennedy”?

Deborah A. Hard