Letter to Mrs. Kennedy
Mar. 18, 2010 12:22 pm
Updated: Jul. 16, 2010 11:24 am
Okay, yesterday something amazing happened. I know this has absolutely NOTHING to do with food! But I am so happy that I can't contain myself, so I have to tell all of you!
Many years ago, I had a conversation with my father (who passed 2 years ago), about a poem that he had written when he was stationed in Germany with the US Army in the 60's. He wrote this poem when he heard that President Kennedy had been shot. His poem was published in Stars and Stripes magazine. He also wrote a condolence letter to Mrs. Kennedy expressing his sympathy and included a copy of this poem. She, in turn, sent him a note thanking him for his kind words. His letter and his poem were then admitted into the JFK Library and Museum. I was so impressed by this story that I was actually taking notes. I wanted to someday find my fathers poem in the JFK Library. My notes were nothing elaborate. On the page (which I somehow managed to keep through the many moves) all it said was this:
South East Area Command
United States Army of Europe
Stars and Stripes
Poem in the John F Kennedy Library
Poem on a plaque at Hayes (which is the Catholic School my father had attended)
That's it...not very thorough I know.
Now, at the time of this conversation, I was living in Iowa, which made this task very unlikely to complete. But as all of my AR friends know, I married a sailor and jetted off to live in Connecticut. Did I mention that my home is only an hour and a half from the JFK Library? :-)
My husband and I had a ceremony to attend in Boston yesterday. So for the past couple of weeks, I have been doing research and trying to track down my father's writings. I had NO LUCK! I was searching through digital archives from Stars and Stripes. I was searching the digital archives from the JFK Library. I found nothing. So I called the Main Research Room at JFK and spoke to a very nice woman who informed me that finding this may not only be time consuming, but impossible. The archivists at that time were not as thorough as they are now. They made the decision, back then, to keep some condolence mail, and to throw some away. She informed me that, on the bright side, the poetry has it's own "section" in the condolence mail. This may have saved it from the trash. Another downside, there are more than 30 cardboard boxes of this poetry, and I would have to sift through them page by page to find it.
So, I settled into the fact that IF I did find this poem, it was going to take MANY trips to Boston and countless hours of searching.
Well, yesterday finally arrived, and we headed to Boston. The ceremony we had to attend ended up being somewhat of a bust, due to lack of preparation, which let us arrive at the JFK Library just after noon. I had to check in and fill out some forms in order to be able to access the archives. Then a woman brought me a cart with a bunch of cardboard boxes on it. These were the boxes I had to sort through. Most of them were large, plain boxes. But the first 2 on the cart were small archive holders. So I started with those. I quickly figured out the first small box was condolence mail that had been sorted and selected for the book that was recently published, "Letters to Jackie".
Not even halfway through the second small box I found it. I saw the US Military border of the stationary. I think glanced to the top where I saw the words United States Army of Europe. At that point I knew I had found it! My eyes lowered to the letter itself and I saw it. My Father's handwriting. I instantly started crying. I didn't even know what to do. I walked up to the desk and told the archivist that I had found what I was looking for, but I didn't know what to do now. He, knowing the story, said in disbelief, "No you didn't! I want to see it! Go get it!"
I was bawling even harder by this time. I brought it up to him and he kept telling me he couldn't believe I had found it! He had hoped I would, but knew how unlikely it was. Neither of us could believe that I found it within 45 minutes of arriving at the library! He called down to the security desk and asked them to escort my husband and my son up to the research room. When Casey and Griffin got upstairs, I had Steve (the archivist) pose for pictures (and video) with my husband, my son, and my father's letter.
I cannot begin to convey how important this was for me. I don't really know why I felt I had to find this, but I did. This experience has made me once again feel a closeness to my Dad, whom I miss so dearly. I wish he could be here to see that I found it, to read his words again, and to see that our conversation had meant a lot to me. Though I'm sure I would use any excuse for him to be here! I miss him very much, and this was such a wonderful experience. And thank you to all of you for sharing it with me.