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JFK 50th: Memories shared of a president slain

Saturday - 11/23/2013, 4:06am  ET

Peace Corps Country Director Emily Untermeyer, third from left, talks to volunteers Melanie Mason, right, from Florida, Eric Rochman and Claire Stiglmeier, both from New York, during an informal meeting at the Paraguay's Peace Corps office in Asuncion, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. Paraguay has 200 volunteers currently and is one of the oldest currently operating posts, since 1966. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

The Associated Press

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, people paused from Dublin to Dallas to remember the slain president of the United States. Collected here are some of memories of Kennedy and the day he died, shared with AP reporters around the globe.


EMILY UNTERMEYER, 60, Asuncion, Paraguay

Emily Untermeyer was a 10-year-old in Houston, Texas, when Kennedy was shot.

"I remember my sixth-grade teacher being called out of the classroom and coming back in tears," she said. Her current position, inspired by Kennedy, is Paraguay country director for the Peace Corps, the worldwide volunteer program inspired by a speech he gave in 1960.

"People like me lived through the Cold War; I remember the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis and the beginning of the Vietnam War. To young people today that is ancient history," Untermeyer said, speaking about the video of Kennedy that Peace Corps volunteers are shown. "... what really gets me is that the words are so appropriate 50 years later. That to me is very, very powerful."

-- Reported by Mike Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina.



A 17-year-old student at Malden Catholic High School near Boston, Edward Markey was attending an afternoon football rally when one of the religious brothers took the microphone and broke the news that Kennedy had been shot.

"I remember watching the 1956 convention when John F. Kennedy ran for vice president and all of the commentators saying he could not win because he was Irish and Catholic and from Massachusetts and that's who I was," said Markey, who grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family. "When he won (in 1960), he immediately became someone who changed perceptions of how the country viewed Irish Catholics."

Markey said in time, he realized Kennedy's appeal transcended his Boston roots: "It turned out he wasn't just our hero, every ethnic group in the country in some way saw themselves in him."

-- Reported by Steve LeBlanc in Boston.


ALEX "ALI" GONZALEZ, 24, Los Angeles

He was born more than a quarter-century after Kennedy died, but Alex "Ali" Gonzalez says the young president was always one of his mother's heroes. That's why she pressured him to attend Los Angeles' John F. Kennedy High School 10 years ago.

"My mom loved that I was coming here. She really pushed that I come to this school," the 24-year-old artist recalled earlier this week.

Gonzalez painted a larger-than-life mural in the school last year, a gift from the 2007 graduate whose work is often seen these days on NBC television show "The Voice."

"I don't paint a portrait of just anyone," Gonzalez said. "I like to paint inspirational people. So that when people sit back and look at that painting, they will be inspired."

-- Reported by John Rogers in Los Angeles.



Enda Kenny, the Prime Minister of Ireland, was studying his Latin homework when his older brother walked into the family living room in Castlebar, County Mayo, to tell the 12-year-old the news.

"Immediately the enormity of what had happened was apparent to me,'" Kenny told The Associated Press in a statement.

Kennedy's great-grandfather left for Boston in 1848 at the height of the potato famine, and many Irish households displayed a portrait of Kennedy beside the pope in their living rooms.

Kenny's mother, Eithne, had traveled to Dublin to attend a garden party with Kennedy during his 1963 tour of the country. Kenny remembered she returned home gushing.

JFK's death "had a collective effect on the country as a whole and is seared onto the Irish national consciousness in a way few other events are," he said.

-- Reported by Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin.


COLLEEN BONNER, 41, Hurst, Texas

Colleen Bonner, 41, wasn't born when Kennedy was assassinated. But her aunt, 67-year-old Sandra Bonner of Dallas, has "very vivid memories of it."

Colleen Bonner said her aunt was a high school student and was drawing a diagram on the chalkboard in biology class when someone came on the PA to announce that Kennedy had died.

"President Kennedy has always been kind of revered in our family," Colleen Bonner said.

-- Reported by Nomaan Merchant in Dallas.


DIANE CARAZAS, 55, Asuncion, Paraguay

When Kennedy was shot, the nuns at Diane Carazas' Catholic school in Chicago "came in and told us we had to get on our knees and pray."

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