By JOSEPH SAPIA
(Above – President John F. Kennedy with daughter Caroline. John F. Kennedy Library photo.)
Noel Kirchner was in his office at a children’s wear manufacturer in New York’s Fashion District when a co-worker got a telephone call.
“She broke into tears, I remember that,” Kirchner said. “She kept saying, ‘The president’s been shot, the president’s been shot.’”
Eventually, the word came on that Friday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas.
At Seabrook Village in Tinton Falls this week, members of the community of 1,400 residents 62-years-old and older recalled that day 50 years ago and the days that followed.
“Everyone remembers where they were,” said Emily Pernice, 88, who was living in Summit. “I was at Oak Knoll, a Catholic prep school in Summit.”
As part of the Mothers Club, she was volunteering in the cafeteria that day at the school attended by two of her daughters, Mary Ellen, now 64, and Carolyn, now 61. She suspects the initial word was that Kennedy had simply been shot.
“It was like tumult,” Pernice said. “Everybody was saying, ‘Oh, no.’ I would say we were in shock.”
Maddy Weigold, 85, was living in the Bronx and working as a staff assistant for the New York Telephone Company’s Yellow Pages business directory. Her future husband, John, telephoned her: “You’re not going to believe this.”
“He said he’s been shot and believed dead,” Weigold said.
Ada Freeman, 85, was living in Freehold Borough.
“I was doing the dishes in the kitchen,” Freeman said. “A friend called that he had been shot. Turned on the television, was glued (to it).”
Freeman’s husband, Bill, was in downtown Freehold at the family’s business, Freeman Funeral Home.
“My first reaction was, turn the TV on,” Bill Freeman said.
Kirchner said the shooting of the president was “unbelievable, you never expected that.”
“Just shocking, completely devastating,” Kirchner said.
Jim Ciavaglia, 82, was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press.
“I was covering a meeting (of the Asbury Park Development Commission) at Paul Samperi’s Restaurant at the Asbury Circle,” Ciavaglia said. “On my way back (to the Press office, then in Asbury Park), (it) came on the radio Kennedy had been assassinated.
“I don’t remember being involved in any of the heavy (news) coverage,” Ciavaglia said.
Eventually, word reached people Kennedy was not only shot, but he was killed in the shooting.
“I think everybody just walked around having to believe (the president was dead), but not wanting to,” Weigold said. “Then, you have to accept it.”
In Freehold, “nobody talked about anything else, except that,” Ada Freeman said.
Two days later on Sunday, at about noon, Weigold was in her bedroom getting ready to go to church.
“My mother said, ‘You won’t believe this,’” Weigold said. “Another you-won’t-believe-this.”
This time, the news was Kennedy’s accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot while in police custody by Dallas businessman Jack Ruby. Live television captured the shooting of Oswald, who died later that day.
Weigold made it to church to attend Mass.
“I figured it was the best place to be,” Weigold said.
Ciavaglia is not sure if he thinks Oswald was actually involved in the Kennedy assassination. If he was, he probably did not act alone, Ciavaglia figures.
“I don’t see how one person could have done it alone,” Ciavaglia said. “It’s possible, but I don’t see it as likely.
“The other mystery is why did Jack Ruby shoot Oswald,” Ciavaglia said.
As for the Kennedy assassination, “That’s probably one of the few dates where everyone knows where they were,” Pernice said.
Does this bit of history seem it is a half century-old?
“No,” Bill Freeman said, “definitely not.”
Residents of Seabrook Village created a video, “JFK Assassination Video, Seabrook Village,” that is on the website www.youtube.com and embedded below: