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Kennedy connection recalled

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
Emily Carlson | Daily News
Local politicians and community members bow their heads as Taps is played by McKeesport Tiger Band member Casey Wash at a Memorial Service marking the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Officials gathered in McKeesport's Kennedy Park on Friday to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the park's namesake.

Attended mostly by local leaders and retired and current city employees, the noon hour ceremony in the rain offered a brief moment of reflection on John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his place in city history.

Speaking to those gathered around the 9-foot-tall bronze statue of JFK, Mayor Michael Cherepko noted that the image is one of the first, if not the first, full-body statues of the president.

Kennedy drew a crowd of about 25,000 spectators when he visited McKeesport in October 1962. The president was killed in Dallas roughly 13 months later, on Nov. 22, 1963.

Within days of the assassination, then-mayor Andrew J. Jakomas called for a statue in the park, Cherepko said.

Retired McKeesport police officer Eugene Grimball was among those who attended Friday's memorial service.

“I was on the corner of Tenth and Walnut Street in front of my cousin's shoe shop when I heard the news,” said Grimball, who went into a nearby bar to learn more about what had happened. As the news sank in, he said, “I broke down in tears. I really loved the man.”

Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey recalled the day of Kennedy's death.

Macey said he was in high school when the news broke.

“Our drafting teacher said, ‘Put your work away,'” he remembered. For the rest of the day, Macey said the school played news over the public address system.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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