The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

November 22, 2013

Recalling JFK visit here

By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer

- — Now, 50 years after the president was assassinated, residents still recall those days, and how the valley was uplifted by his brief but memorable visit.

Here are few of the memories, sent in by Herald readers.

Kevin Cavanaugh, 74, of Hermitage:

“My father gave me a ticket to go up to the Shenango Inn to see him. Here I am, 21 years old, and a Republican, no less, and I’m seated up close.

“After he spoke and we all stood up and applauded, all these women, and I mean women, literally pushed me out of the way to try and get to him. Boy, they were screaming. He was looking at me kind of desperately, like ‘Hey, help me here’ when he saw all these women waiting to get to him.”

Tom Lasko, of East Lansing, Mich., formerly of Farrell:

“My dad was on a PT boat in World War II, same as Kennedy was on the PT 109. My father wanted to see Kennedy and shake his hand. And he got to do that.

“We have a photo of the motorcade coming up Idaho Street given to my family by Roy DeBrakeleer, a councilman, and the mayor at that time, John Giroski. You can just see all the excitement around the motorcade. I was in high school at the time and I watched that motorcade. My wife watched him in Sharon. It was unbelievably exciting for Kennedy to be campaigning in the valley.”

Donna Lasko, of East Lansing, Mich., formerly of Sharon:

“I was 13 and I walked to a rally to hear him speak. In the days leading up to his visit we were all wearing these white plastic Kennedy hats and Man of the ’60s badges.

“And when he came to speak, well, he was so just so good-looking, in person, I mean, wow, it was something. Someone handed him a donkey (the symbol of the Democrat party) and he said he would give it to his daughter, Caroline. And he made a joke that she had a lot of donkeys, but didn’t know what an elephant (the Republican symbol) was. And he planned to keep it that way.”

Hugh O’Brien, 60, formerly of Farrell:

“I remember it so well. It was a beautiful Saturday morning. We lived on the last house on Roemer Boulevard, across from Haywood Street. We had a big family, and my brothers and sisters and parents all came out to watch him.

“I remember my Dad holding my baby sister Margaret on his shoulders. My mother swears Kennedy made eye contact with her when he went by. She insisted. That became her claim to fame,

“I guess. I would have been about 7 years old. I was old enough to remember hearing about it for a week. People were lining the street.

“I remember just as vividly the day he was killed. I was in fifth grade at Our Lady of Fatima and the teacher said the president had been shot. All the kids were crying. The teacher was trying to comfort us and the principal came in and said he died. It was a happy time and then a very sad time.”

Hazel Mondoc, 79, of Sharon:

“I was at Elks Square at 4 a.m. waiting for him to come speak. No one was there. I remember a policeman brought me a cup of coffee. We had gone to Youngstown, too, to see him get off the plane. I was sitting so close when he spoke in Sharon I had to strain my neck to look up and see him.

“I made friends with another woman, Carol Calca, from Hubbard, because we both talked about what big fans we were. We’re still friends to this day.

“The day he was killed, I was working at Westinghouse and I thought it was a joke. It couldn’t be true, I thought. It was awful, and it’s still awful. What a terrible thing to have happen. I wonder what he could have accomplished if he’d had the chance.”

Doris Dickey, of Hermitage:

“I have something that nobody else in the world has. I was pen pals with a woman from Holland. When Kennedy was killed, she sent me a beautiful letter expressing the pain and agony of the Dutch people who loved him so much. Then she sent me this beautiful 14k gold ring with Kennedy's face embossed on a coin. I kept it all these years.

“I liked him and I was really impressed with him. I can’t believe it’s been 50 years.”

Howard Wild, Sharon:

“I ran his press room when he stopped in Sharon. At the time I owned Sharon Stationery. I had to set up a press room for 15 reporters, with mimeographs, typewriters, paper and pencil. Oh, they knew exactly what they needed, but I’ll tell you, they were slow to pay. I remember that. Took me nine months to get my money.

“I remember standing in the press room and he came in the lobby and the place was crawling with politicians. I had the best spot there was to get a look at him. His being here was a business proposition for me.”

Faye Wild, Sharon:

“I remember his death so vividly. We were in Witchita Falls, Texas, and I remember I had a meeting at the school. When I got there they were lowering the flag to half-staff and I knew he was dead. It was like somebody in your family died, we sat watching the television for a week. It was a very scary, very earth-shattering time.”

Bill Caputo, 88, of Hermitage, formerly of Farrell:

“I was on the escort committee that day he arrived in Youngstown. I was a captain in the Farrell police department. All the way into town it was just lined with people. He said to me, ‘How are you making out?’ and I said, ‘I’m just fine, sir, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll make it.’

“It was like going to a mob on Idaho Street. It was quite an honor for me. He was a handsome fellow. Just indescribeable, real good-looking. We had to pick up the tempo a bit because the crowd was getting excited. I loved it. I loved meeting him, meeting the FBI agents and the Secret Service.”

Mary Ann Knight, 64, of Sharon:

“My Dad was the assistant chief of police in Sharon, William Lavin. So he got me up to the Shenango Inn where I got to shake his hand. You can see me shaking his hand and the look on my face says it all. We knew he was coming there. He stood on the steps shaking hands. I was thinking he was the greatest thing ever.

“I remember being in high school when he was shot. Everybody was crying. I cried all weekend, watching that little black and white television.