The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 22, 2013

Area residents recall that day

Staff Writer

ASHTABULA — It’s one of those things people of a certain age will never forget: the moment they learned President John F. Kennedy had been killed.

Kennedy died 50 years ago today, shot down while seated beside his wife in a motorcade winding its way through downtown Dallas. To mark the occasion, the Star Beacon asked readers to share their memories of the day, and many responded with moving stories, not only of how they discovered the awful news, but the impact the young president had on their lives.

Nearly all of the stories began with a degree of disbelief. Things like that don’t happen here, many writers said. Many, like Jim Giannell of Ashtabula, said they learned of the assassination in round-about ways.

On Nov. 22, 1963 Giannell was a sportswriter with the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,  News and enjoying a day off from work. He went to a bank to cash a payroll check and noticed the muted, subdued behavior of the employees. “Did somebody die?” Giannell asked, jokingly. A teller shared the news, he said.

He raced home to a “hysterical” wife. “Kennedy’s been shot,” she cried.

The newspaper called and told Giannell to report for work. “Of course, the newsroom was crazy,” he said.

Giannell covered the University of Miami football game, held as scheduled, but minus the usual half-time pomp and hoopla, he said. Giannell recalled department stores in Fort Lauderdale pulled their usual window displays, in favor of portraits of the president draped in black cloth.

Reactions were identical in Ashtabula County. On the days immediately following the shooting — especially during the Nov. 24 funeral — local schools suspended classes and activities, government offices closed and churches held memorial services. Many businesses, including the Star Beacon, closed their doors briefly in honor of the slain president.