The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Where were you?


Nov. 22, 1963, was a momentous day in American history. The 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas that afternoon. A nation in mourning was riveted by reports of the events over the next few days, including the killing of his assassin and a state funeral.

Now, 50 years later, many still recall the moment they heard the news. Below are a sampling of recollections of that day.

"I think I was in the seventh grade at J.E. Murphy. I believe Mr. (William) Zell was the teacher. Someone came in the classroom, and told Mr. Zell first and told the rest of us. We were old enough to understand. I guess it was a shock to think the President of the United States, and that particular president, could be assassinated. For our age it was a real shock." - Joe Cayer Sr., Ironwood

"I was at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, sitting in an arts of theatre class. I felt disbelief. They sent us home, and after going to class was the same, except it was different. It just seemed there was a somber mood around campus. I was 20 years old." - Percy Smith, Ironwood

"We were down at my hunting camp in Pine Lake area getting ready for deer season. We had a battery radio and someone happened to flip it on. You couldn't believe it. The first questions were why and who could have done it. It was just unbelievable. I was 37 years old." - Jack Prospero, Hurley

"I was a substitute teacher in for the Van Buren Public Schools in Belleville. I was 22 years old, and as I'm going to the classroom to teach the final class of the day, I noticed all these teachers crying. I didn't know them well, so I kept going, and after class I got the news. Everything just completely shut down. It was an unbelievable. It was total disbelief that someone would kill or attempt to assassinate the president. (The Kennedy's) were America's family. The people loved them. My stomach felt that it had a pit in it. My wife and I wept. We didn't know what to say. I'll never forget little John saluting his father during the funeral." - Al Gaiss, Bessemer

"Myself, and one of my dorm friends, from Michigan State, had the radio on. The news report came over the radio that a Catholic priest left the president's room and said he was dead. I looked up and I saw a sign. It was a big billboard from the chamber of commerce that said 'Fowlerville. Stop or smile when you drive on by." It just stunned me. Every time I see something on Kennedy, I see that sign." - Judge Anders Tingstad, Jr., Bessemer

"I believe it was my freshman year of high school, sitting in geometry class at Mayville High School. It was announced over the speaker system, and we all looked at each other in astonishment. I remember a great deal of fear at that time. It was the first of several tragic assassinations in the 1960s. People weren't sure if this meant bombs and warfare, or what it meant. People were paying rapt attention at the time. That seemed to be the beginning of it, or the cusp of it." - Judge Roy Gotham, Ironwood

"I was in a grade school classroom, in the fourth grade at Washington Elementary in Bessemer. It was announced and we were all sent home. I was just a young kid, 9 years old, and it was kind of a surprise. I'm not sure I fully grasped what had happened." - Judge Joel Massie, Bessemer

"I was absolutely dumbfounded. I was at home with a brand new baby. My son, Bob, had just turned 1 a couple days before. The little kid wanted to run around, and I had to listen to what was happening. I'm sure I found out on the radio." - Dorothy Walesewicz, Hurley

"I was in class, a senior in high school in Lynnfield, Mass. News of him being shot was relayed to us over the school intercom system. We were so stunned, we really didn't know what to make of it. Later, I was walking home with a couple of other kids after being dismissed, when another kid yelled out of a car, 'Kennedy died.' It was hard to comprehend." - Rev. Francis Strong, Ironwood

"I was in my eighth grade English class in grade school. Just before 1 p.m., a nun came on the intercom and Walter Cronkite said he was assassinated. I had a paper route right after school from the Daily Globe. Every home on the paper route had their TVs on, and I followed everything from house to house. I remember feeling stunned. Some people cried, and it was very emotional." - Mike Patrick, Ironwood

"I was in my second year Latin class at J.E. Murphy High School as a sophomore. Miss Mary Hambley was my teacher, and an announcement came over from Mr. Roland Van Slyke, the principal, that the president had been assassinated. I felt shock and surprise. It came so unexpectedly." - Paul Sturgul, Hurley

"I was at home watching 'As the World Turns.' It was interrupted at 12:30 p.m. our time I think. I had just put my daughter down for a nap, and it came on. I couldn't believe it, and all I could wonder was 'Why?'" - Karen Thomas, Ironwood

"I was in classroom at St. Mary's Catholic School in Hurley in the seventh grade. Sister Adolf was our teacher and Sister Angelita just got word the president was shot. Everyone was looking at each other. We heard he was going to Dallas through current events. I felt disbelief, because he was the first Catholic president. In those days, being the first and only Catholic president, you were proud. After school, I had a paper route, and it was on the front page of the paper. I had the biggest route, 43 papers, and I saw his face on every one of them." - Bob Bruneau, Hurley

"I was at home in Superior, Wis. My husband was a teacher there, and I was home watching TV. I was very shocked. My oldest son, Michael, was just coming home from kindergarten, and I told him what had happened. He almost cried. He was one of our favorite presidents. My husband was a student at UW-Superior, and when JFK was campaigning, he stopped in Superior. Just as Joe was able to shake his hand, Kennedy was called away. My husband waited and was just about to leave, when Kennedy came to him and said 'I'm so sorry I was called away,' and shook his hand. It was personal for us. I can picture it like it was yesterday." - April Ruppe, Ironwood

"I was in seventh grade at Roosevelt School. My memory was that it was broadcast over the intercom. I was just horrified. It was a stunning thing. Even more vivid than that moment, was the memory of the days afterword, sitting in front of TV just memorized. I never will forget the sound of the drum cadence during the funeral." - Naomi Wegmeyer, Ironwood

"I was in my classroom at St. Mary's-St. Joseph's Catholic School in the fourth grade in Iron Mountain. The announcement came over the loud speaker. Our nun gasped, and everything went quiet. I didn't know what to think. I was just 9 years old. I knew something bad happened. Wasn't sure how bad, but knew it was really bad. This wasn't something you heard of, or what it meant. Didn't know if we were in danger. Just knew it was bad." - Kitty Colassaco, Ironwood

"I was in eighth grade in Mr. Massa's science class in Roosevelt School in Ironwood Township. Mr. Mattson, who was the superintendent in the Ironwood Township School System, came on the intercom and said what happened. At 13, I was aware of that presidential election, and when you compare Kennedy to Nixon, Kennedy was very iconic. He made an impression on me during that whole election before. And at the same time, you knew it was a historic event, because of what happened the next week. We were home for Thanksgiving for a couple of days, and all that was on television, watching everything in black and white." - Sue Murphy, Ironwood

"My kids were in school, and I heard it on TV at my home in Iron Belt, Wis. I was just heading to the post office, and I asked if it was true, and they said it was. As soon as I got home, I watched and cried my eyes out." - Judy Levra, Wakefield

"I remember sitting on the floor and my mother coming in the room. I looked up at her and she was hysterical. I was only 3, so I wasn't old enough to comprehend what had happened. It might have been one of the first memories I have, but it made an impact." - Bernie Hibbeln, Hurley

"Like all Americans living in 1963, I remember the moment I learned of President Kennedy's assassination. I was in the sixth grade at St. Agnes Catholic School in Iron River. The nun teaching our class left the room and returned with tears in her eyes. She didn't say anything, but simply wrote on the chalkboard, 'The president has been shot.' It was a day I have never forgotten." - U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls (Michigan's First Congressional District)


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