Remembering JFK

Jon Jon KennedyAs a nation we are reflecting this month upon the fact that it has been a half century since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

At that time I was working as a graphic artist for the Department of the Interior in downtown Washington, D. C., and the Kennedy Presidency seemed deeply entwined with my own coming of age. My father had served as military attaché from the Pentagon during the inauguration, and I watched with fascination as my mother and he donned their finest to attend the inaugural balls. I had listened with bated breath to the Bay of Pigs incident while attending classes at The George Washington University just a few blocks from the White House. After college I got a studio apartment in Foggy Bottom where the Watergate complex now stands, and I cheered and wept with every news release from the Kennedy clan. I was proud to get a job with the government using my art skills to prepare government manuals for publication. It was so hard to believe that those golden days could end so brutally and so suddenly.

In the days following the assassination, friends and I viewed the casket lying in state in the capitol rotunda, quietly watched the hearse pass by on Pennsylvania Avenue, and choked back tears on the slopes of Arlington National Cemetery. At that graveside service a young bugler from Ft Meyer army post had the responsibility to play Taps. Apparently he, too, was choking back sobs because he missed a note. I worked through my own grief by using my interest in painting and poetry to memorialize some of the experiences of those days.

I’m sharing with you today a watercolor that I did of three-year-old Jon-Jon Kennedy, the president’s son, saluting his father’s casket as it passed. I’m also posting the poem that I wrote about that young bugler at the graveside service.

The Trumpet Sobbed
The whole world stood with tearful eyes
To heed the trumpet’s wailing sighs
Sing our mourning hearts’ farewell
To the man whose story all can tell
The world’s strong men, the mightiest of all,
With sobbing shoulders let tears fall,
And the trumpeter, the best they had,
Sounded a note that some called bad.
But the note sounded from a broken heart
And gives token to sobs that all men impart.

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