Nation pauses to remember Kennedy
DALLAS (AP) — Fifty years after John F. Kennedy fell victim to an assassin’s bullet while visiting Texas with his wife, people at home and abroad paused today to remember the 35th president of the United States.
Collected here are memories of the slain president, details from the day of his death and live updates from the memorial service at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
Colleen Bonner, 41, Hurst, Texas
Colleen Bonner, 41, was supposed to attend Friday’s event in Dallas with her 67-year-old aunt Sandra Bonner, though the cold, windy weather forced the elder Bonner to stay at her Dallas home.
Colleen Bonner said her aunt told her about being a high school student on Nov. 22, 1963, drawing a diagram on the chalkboard in biology class when someone came on the PA to announce that Kennedy had died.
“She has very vivid memories of it,” Colleen Bonner said. In her absence, Sandra Bonner has told her to take lots of pictures and soak in the day.
“President Kennedy has always been kind of revered in our family,” Colleen Bonner said, adding: “I just wanted to honor his memory, and I wanted to be a part of history.”
— Reported by Nomaan Merchant in Dallas.
Kennedy on screen
Even before his death, President John F. Kennedy was a movie star of sorts. In the 1963 film “PT 109,” he was portrayed by Cliff Robertson, whom the sitting president personally cast after viewing Robertson’s screen test. In doing so, JFK overruled first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who wanted Warren Beatty for the role.
The actor who has played Kennedy more than anyone is Brett Stimely, who took on the role starting in 2009 with the adaptation of the comic masterpiece “Watchman.” He reprised the role in 2011’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” as well as “Kill the Dictator” and “Parkland” in 2013.
James Marsden tried his hand at being JFK in this year’s film, “The Butler.” Marsden told late-night television host Conan O’Brien it was “virtually impossible” to get JFK’s accent right.
“It was a daunting thing stepping into those shoes,” he said.
The most recent actor to portray Kennedy is Rob Lowe, who starred in the National Geographic Channel miniseries “Killing Kennedy” that premiered earlier this month.
Lowe said while researching the role, he was moved by a recording of Kennedy giving dictation when he’s interrupted by son John Jr.
“Their conversation together was priceless,” Lowe said.
— Reported by Jessica Herndon in Los Angeles.
A peaceful legacy
The Peace Corps began with a speech then-Sen. John F. Kennedy gave in 1960. By his time of death, it had already expanded to 28 countries.
Every new Peace Corps volunteer is shown a recruiting video he recorded from the Oval Office, in which he calls their service “one of the most encouraging manifestations of the American spirit this country has seen in many years.”
“I hope in the coming months and years that many of you will follow the example of those who have gone before,” Kennedy says in the scratchy black-and-white video. “I hope this spirit will grow, that hundreds of other younger and older Americans will go overseas and show our best side.”
More than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 countries with the Peace Corps, including more than 3,690 in Paraguay, where country director Emily Untermeyer still gets a thrill every time trainees see Kennedy describing their mission.
“The words still resonate after all these years,” Untermeyer said. “It’s fascinating to see the looks on their faces and see that moment when they realize they have joined a long legacy of public service. When you see the video of the creator and the visionary and he’s talking about things that are just as relevant today in terms of what calls people to public service, it makes it real to them.”