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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Prattans remember Kennedy assassination 50 years ago

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  • The nation's wounds have never truly healed in the 50 years since an assassin's bullets cut short the life of the thirty-fifth president John F. Kennedy.
    News of the assassination on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 made its way across the country on television and radio.
    Like other critical historical events, people who were old enough still remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. On the half-century anniversary of Kennedy's death this Friday, several Pratt area residents shared their memories of that awful day in Dallas that changed America forever.
    Homer Detwiler
    Detwiler, who is now 82, was picking up his kids at Haskins when he heard the news on the car radio. He went home and turned on the television and followed the news closely.
    The assassination hit his wife particularly hard. She cried a lot and was very upset because of her family background. Her name is Mary Catherine (Kennedy) Detwiler and her grandparents came from Ireland. Detwiler said he didn't know if his wife was related to the president but his death had a great impact on her. She collected many items of JFK memorabilia.
    Detwiler said he had mixed emotions about the shooting and wondered if the true story of what happened would ever come out.
    "Upsetting. It was very upsetting," Detwiler said. "It was a terrible, terrible day. It still bothers me to see him (president) getting shot (Zapruder film.)"
    He was watching television on Sunday, Nov. 24 when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in the Dallas police station. That made it even more unlikely that the true story would ever be known.
    Dorothy Ballinger
    Ballinger was 31 and was at home in the Sedgwick County on a farm with her six children who were watching cartoons when the news came on and stayed on about the shooting.
    "It was devastating. It was an attack on our life style and country," Ballinger said. "It was going to effect everyone and it did."
    Kennedy was the best president the county ever had. If he had lived, how much better would the county be, Ballinger said.
    Wayne Parsons
    Parsons was 38 and sitting in his Parsons Jewelry business he had owned for three years. He had come back from lunch and was working on a piece of jewelry while listening to a little radio when he heard the news. One of his first thoughts was about the shooter.
    "I couldn't believe it. Who in the (heck) would shoot him," Parsons said.
    Thinking about hitting the president in a moving limousine, Parsons said the he, the shooter, must have been a pretty good marksman.
    Page 2 of 3 - When he heard the wound was fatal he wondered what was going to happen to the country. He didn't know much about Vice President Lyndon Johnson other than he was from Texas. Parsons said he didn't know how the country would recover from the assassination.
    Stan Reimer
    Reimer was a senior at Bethany College. He was in a class but he doesn't remember exactly which one when he heard the news. Reimer said he kind of went into "neutral" and it took quite a while for the news to sink in.
    He said he just doesn't remember much about what he thought but he was "totally amazed" and shocked. Reimer was one of the millions who was watching television Sunday, Nov. 24 and saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. It just emphasized how hard it was to understand what was going on.
    "Can this actually be happening," Reimer said.
    Bob Schmisseur
    Schmisseur was in class in the sixth grade in O'Fallon, Ill. when his teacher, Mrs. Goheen, announced the news to the class. He lived on a farm and when he went home he was the one who had to break the news to his parents because neither one had heard about the assassination.
    He said it was hard to believe and he thought everyone was shocked and sad.
    One image that stood out for Schmisseur was when the president's son John John saluted his father's casket as it passed by.
    He remembers watching television and in particular watching Walter Cronkite of CBS News for all the information about the assassination. He also saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald and how that added to the shock of the event.
    Jean Kutz
    Kutz was working part time at the Tribune that was in the previous location in the 300 block of South Ninnescah. She was a proofreader and operated the TTS machine that prepared tape for the lineotype machine.
    Her husband, Don Kutz, was the shop foreman at the Tribune. He walked into the pressroom and said, "Stop the presses." He told the staff that the president had been shot.
    Kutz said she wanted to know what in the world had happened because it was something totally unexpected.
    "I just didn't think that would ever happen in America," Kutz said.
    She then had to get busy because the staff had to remake the entire front page of the paper.
    Karen Pinkall
    She was living in Lyons and had just finished lunch. She was watching "As The World Turns" on CBS when Walter Cronkite interrupted the show with the news. She continued to watch CBS for additional news about the assassination.
    Page 3 of 3 - Her husband Bob Pinkall was a teacher at the school. She called the school and they had not heard the news.
    Some events scheduled for that night were cancelled and she said it just seemed like they continually watched TV.
    Bob Pinkall
    Pinkall was teaching a physics class at Lyons High School just after lunch when his wife Karen called and the school found out from that phone call that the president had been shot. The people at school had a tough time dealing with the news.
    Karen and Bob are the parents of Bruce Pinkall.
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