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Remembering Kennedy: Residents’ Stories

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Brookline community members were incredibly forthcoming with their memories of John F. Kennedy, who many idolize greatly. When recalling some experiences during Kennedy’s presidency, town members glowed with reminiscence and admiration.

Personality

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For former Brookline resident Mildred Flashman, Kennedy was memorable, not only because of his presidency, but also because the people in Brookline felt a unique connection with him.

“He was a very good-looking man, and he came from around here, so we had a special interest in him because we had watched him develop his political career,” Flashman said. “He started out as a congressman, then was a senator and then he ran for president. I even remember his campaigns he had before he ran for the presidency.”

According to Flashman, Kennedy had a very likable personality.

“I remember he was very popular abroad. I remember watching his speech on TV in Berlin. The Russians had put up a wall and East Berlin and West Berlin were separated,” Flashman said. “He went to Germany and spoke. I don’t think he had too much fluency in German, but he used the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner,’ and people just roared in applause for that. It means ‘I am a Berliner.’”

Policy

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Kennedy established a series of policies that resonated with students at the time, including current local business owner John Ashbaugh.

“I remember that he was the one who really pushed through the Medicare Social Security. That was not an easy thing to do, but it was very important for this country,” Ashbaugh said.

According to Flashman, the New Frontier and Peace Corps programs were specifically interesting because of how they focused on the unemployed, minorities and underrepresented groups rebuilding society.

“He tried hard to move the country ahead in employment benefits, and I recall something making women’s wages equal to men. I don’t remember how far he got in that, but it was something that interested me,” Flashman said.

The Cuban Missile Crisis reminds Brookline resident Margaret Richlin of apple strudel. When anxiously awaiting a news conference about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Richlin said her family gathered to wait for Kennedy’s televised speech. Despite the tense atmosphere, Richlin explains how her mother prepared their favorite dessert, apple strudel.

“I found out, many years later, that had prior knowledge that this was going to happen; she had known from a close friend that the Cuban Missile Crisis was occurring and that Kennedy was going to be making the speech,” Richlin said. “So, the way that she dealt with this and tried to comfort the family was to prepare the apple strudel. It sort of gave me insight into how she came up with that. What a coincidence it was!”

Assassination

Nov. 22, 1963 was a day that remains not only a marked place in our history books, but also in the memories of so many Americans. For many Brookline residents, this was a day of utter devastation. According to Flashman, when Kennedy was assassinated, the nation faced a feeling of absolute shock.

“It was just something one couldn’t believe. I remember the news people on the TV; you could see the tears coming out of their eyes when they talked about him,” Flashman said. “It was complete disbelief and sorrow. We talked about nothing else.”

Richlin said her interest in politics and her major in government stemmed from what she considered to be Kennedy’s incredibly educational and charismatic campaign. She said she has vivid memories of Kennedy’s assassination, when she was a sophomore at Radcliffe College.

“I remember exactly where I was standing in Harvard Yard. The church bells started to chime in the courtyard. It was sort of like, ‘What’s this about?’ and everybody was looking around. People had found out and started talking about it,” Richlin said. “It was utter horror and disbelief. Kennedy was such an idol for so many of us.”

Despite his unfortunately short presidency, America fell in love with the deceased president’s will to unite the nation and provide a sense of hope. Whether it was seeing Kennedy pass by in a motorcade or working at an ice cream shop near the Kennedys’ Cape Cod relatives, Brookline residents remember the president, who remains in the hearts of many.

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Remembering Kennedy: Residents’ Stories