Lost Photo Unearthed During Remembrance of Kennedy Assassination
After President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas on Friday, November 22nd, 1963, my parents did what many grieving Americans did – they went to church.
My father and mother joined hundreds of others packing St. John’s Church at 13th and Market Street, close to where they both worked, in downtown Philadelphia.
My parents were a young, married couple; unusual for that day because they both worked full-time even with four children at home . My dad was a CPA and mom was one of the first women traders on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.
They had found out about Kennedy’s assassination at work that day and they were part of the standing-room only crowd in the church that night.
That’s when the picture was taken.
A photographer from the Philadelphia Daily News took a shot of the mourning crowd in the church that night and my parents were right in the middle of it.
As I was growing up, our copy of the newspaper with the photo became an important family artifact, kept tucked safely away between books and brought out only for occasional inspection, or as a means of explaining what happened that tragic day, to those like me who didn’t remember first hand.
I thought it was a cool picture long before I could understand why it was ever taken.
It was special for other reasons, too. That photo is one of only about four pictures I have of my mom, who died in 1980 and was notoriously camera shy. She disliked having her picture taken more than anyone I’ve ever known, and she would somehow always make herself scarce whenever a camera appeared. In this day of the “selfie”, when pictures are constantly being taken for no reason at all, I wonder how mom would get along if she were still alive.
Over the course of time, the newspaper with the memorable photo disappeared though, and no one seemed to know what happened to it.
About ten years ago, my curiosity lead me to write to the publisher of the Philadelphia Daily News to ask about an archive copy of the paper. They wrote back that there was no archive copy. It’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t have an archive of every paper, much less the edition from the day after Kennedy was shot featuring my family’s artifact photo. But that appeared to be that; the photo was gone and, like President Kennedy, it wasn’t coming back.
Then last Sunday, the Philadelphia Inquirer featured a Kennedy assassination retrospective, as seen through the eyes of their readers who remembered the day. And there, right in the middle of page A-23, was our famous, family photo.
Jacklyn Donahue Meehan, from Cape May Court House, who is also pictured, had sent in her copy to The Inquirer, along with her written memories of the day John Kennedy died.
Jacklyn was a young 19-year-old secretary in 1963, who worked in center city Philadelphia, just like my parents. She’s the one in the front right of the photo wearing a glove on her head, which she explains was filling in for the hat she didn’t have with her that day. Women were required to wear hats at mass in the Catholic Church at that time.
My parents are standing several people behind Jacklyn, in the middle of the photo. My father is the tall man wearing black glasses. My mother is two women over your left from my dad, looking in the general direction of the camera at the moment the picture was taken. She undoubtedly was just realizing this was one photo shoot she wasn’t going to be able to avoid.
It’s sadly ironic to me that my mom’s face is faded in this copy of the photo, from its placement in the fold of an old newspaper. 50 years later and mom is still trying to work her way out of photographs.