Rayburn native led JFK funeral procession
On Nov. 25, 1963, as national and international leaders gathered in Washington for the state funeral of President John F. Kennedy, a Rayburn Township man lined up with 20 other Washington Metropolitan Police officers to lead the funeral procession.
Ron Crytzer, a graduate of Kittanning High School's Class of 1956, said he vividly recalls the drum beat that accompanied the procession along the funeral route up to the cemetery entrance.
“As an individual, I wasn't thinking of what an honor it was. I was thinking of it as an assignment,” he said. “We were on the alert. It was only afterward I realized the significance of the part of history I was involved with.”
For Crytzer, the most moving part of the presidential funeral was witnessing Kennedy's casket being loaded onto the caisson and seeing the president's son, John Kennedy Jr., give his now famous farewell salute.
Crytzer served in the military as a paratrooper from 1956 to 1958 before becoming a Washington police officer in 1960.
“I was assigned to the Third Precinct, which encompasses The White House,” Crytzer said, adding that the White House became like a second home.
“My first assignment was providing security for President Kennedy's inauguration,” he said. “Afterward, I was assigned for security for the first family. I crossed paths with the Kennedys many times.”
Crytzer recalled that when Kennedy went to Texas and was shot and killed, there was speculation among the police officers about whether the assassination was the result of a conspiracy.
Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht of Pittsburgh said that at the time of the president's assassination, he was working with colleague Dr. Thomas Noguchi in the Los Angeles Coroner's Office.
“His (Noguchi's) secretary whispered in his ear, and we immediately adjourned to a nearby restaurant to watch the TV news coverage,” Wecht said.
Since that day, Wecht has become known for his criticism of the Warren Commission's findings and opposes the single-bullet theory.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.