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Everybody remembers where they were

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 1963 file photo, President John F. Kennedy's motorcade travels through Dallas.

Nov. 22, 1963, started like nearly any other fall day in southeastern Minnesota, but shortly after 1 p.m., much of the world recalls where they were.

"The president has been shot."

"Everybody remembers where they were. The whole world was silent with the shock and surprise no matter what your political beliefs," said Marilyn Burbank, of Rochester, who lived in Alexandria, Va., at the time while her husband, Dr. Mahlon Burbank, was a captain in the U.S. Army stationed at DeWitt Army Hospital at Fort Belvior.

Where were you?

Walter Zien, of Manitowac, Wis., was in Rochester at Mayo Clinic, undergoing tests.


"It was about 1 o'clock, and I was connected to a kidney machine when all of the sudden the technicians disappeared," said Zien, who was in Rochester this week for a checkup. "After about a half hour, I hollered "anybody out there?" One of the technicians came in and invited me to gather with six or seven of them as they listened to the radio reports of the shooting and then the confirmation that the president was dead. It was a cold, somber day."

Rochester learns the news

Rochester was just bundling up for a November cold snap as residents watched the mercury dip that morning from 58 degrees at 9 a.m. to 34 by 1:30 p.m., as clouds and rain settled on the city.

Bob Ludescher, a custodian at Rochester City Hall, was walking in the front door on First Avenue Southwest on that Friday afternoon when City Clerk Alfreida Ryder told him Kennedy had been assassinated. He stood there in stunned silence next to Police Chief Jim Macken.

"I had a tear in my eye," Ludescher said. "It stunned everybody in City Hall."

Children were equally affected.

Ken Fabian, of Canton, was a senior at Dover-Eyota High School. "We were in social studies class when it was announced, and the secretary put the radio over the intercom system. The thing I remember most is that all of the girls started crying."

Janet Stevenson, of Rochester, then a 10th-grader at John Marshall High School, was in her Home Economics class making bread when an announcement was made that "our president has been killed."


"What I remember most at that moment was everyone just stood there in disbelief that such a horrible incident could happen 'to us,'" she said. "Hardly anyone spoke for a very long time, but there were lots and lots of tears and just standing around. What I don't remember, however, is whether we ever finished the bread making."

Reminders of the day

Many have mementos from the day.

Mark J. Lutjen, of Lake City, still has the Westinghouse transistor radio with the brown leather case that he had purchased that Nov. 22, 1963. Walking back to high school on the noon hour, listening to music, the broadcast was interrupted with news that Kennedy had been shot.

"I still remember several classmates huddled around that radio during fifth-hour class when it was announced that the president was dead," Lutjen said. "I still have that working transistor radio and will always remember that day when I have it on."

Zien has a copy of the Post-Bulletin's large bold block type "PRES. KENNEDY ASSASSINATED!" He was in Rochester for care at Mayo Clinic. He has kept that newspaper and others from the fateful day.

"I still get it out and look at it," he said.

Rita Ward, of Fountain, was newly graduated from Lourdes High School and had started training as a medical secretary at Mayo Clinic. She was married Sept. 18, 1965, two years after the assassination. One of the designation points on her honeymoon with her husband, Bill, was to visit the memorial for Kennedy in Dallas.


"We made it, and while I was standing viewing the beautiful memorial, Bill snapped a few pictures of me," she said this week. "I have cherished these pictures and have kept them in a safe and secure place all of these years. Now that I am older, I realize that for "two newlywed country pumpkins," being able to travel that far and see the memorial was a great gift. Each year, at our anniversary time, we re-look at the photos and cherish them even more."

Sandy Cooper, of Rochester, remembers her mother had just had a baby, a little girl named Sue.

"We where very happy when our mother returned home from the hospital," Cooper said. "Every time there is an anniversary of JFK's death, our sister is celebrating a birthday."

The assassination marked four dark days of mourning for a the country along with shock and surprise when the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was gunned down by Jack Ruby in a parking ramp as police escorted him out of the police station.

The funeral

JFK's funeral was another memory point for residents.

"What I will never forget is the absolute silence of the crowd," said Marilyn Burbank, who waited three hours for the procession with her father who was visiting from Galesburg, Ill. Her mother was at home tending to the Burbank's three young children, while her husband was at work at the Army hospital.

"Whenever we sing the Navy hymn at church, I think of the procession," she said.


Louis Kost, of Rochester, was also there. His father was the chief warrant officer in the Army at Fort Belvior.

"It was very quiet, and you could hear the the clop, clop, clop sounds from the horses, and I remember the caisson with JFK's casket and the riderless horse, 'Black Jack,' with the riding boots facing backward," Kost said.

"Looking back, I know I lived and watched history go through," he said. "Being in Washington, D.C., is an incredible thing for a kid."

Later, Kost's family was in Germany, where his father was stationed.

"It seemed that every town had a Kennedy Strasse (street)," Kost said.

In Rochester, the city was somber as the rest of the country. Attendants at the Mayo Clinic's Plummer Building closed the doors at 10 a.m. on the Monday of the funeral. Each door weighs 4,000 pounds, is 16 feet high and5 1/2 inches thick. It's an honor that's been done only a few times during death. Many churches in Rochester held services to remember the fallen president.

On Sunday before the funeral, the Post-Bulletin chronicled the words from many of the city's pulpits, as pastors and priests tried to explain why.

"Out of bickerings and our hatreds, our spiritual apathy, our bitterly divided views on social, political and economic problems has come this tragedy," the Rev. Abner S. Haugen of Zumbro Lutheran is quoted.

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