Everyone who was alive then remembers where they were when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed Nov. 22, 1963.
Batesville resident David Paul, then 10, was sick and home from school in Blue Ash, Ohio. “I pretty well sat beside the TV set a lot along with Mom. Mom did cry when it happened.”
His wife, Rita (Moll) Paul, recalls, “That's the day the whole world cried.”
Despite the chores involved with moving to Batesville shortly after, the president’s death weighed heavily on the mind of his mother, Rose Lee Paul.
She scrawled a note to the president’s widow, but “she didn't say a word to us” about it. Paul supposes his mother wrote to Jackie Kennedy because “she would do anything for anybody and also express her feelings to anyone who was in sorrow. The Kennedys had such a impact on us when he was elected .... He was just one of those presidents that everybody really did like.”
The Safeguard Corp., Greendale, industrial sewing machine technician, remembers Americans felt “there was change coming” in the 1960s, especially with civil rights.
After Rose Lee Paul died of breast cancer in 1998, her son found a letter “where Jackie wrote back to Mom ... thanking her for her thoughts .... it really surprised me that Jacqueline had handwritten her back considering all that had happened. It made me feel happy and pleased because it satisfied mom. She cherished that letter.”
Years passed, then David Paul received a phone call asking if he was Rose Lee Paul’s son. After he said yes, a letter dated Oct. 27, 2009, from a researcher arrived. It said, “While conducting research at the John F. Kennedy Library (in Boston) recently, Ellen Fitzpatrick, Carpenter Professor of History, University of New Hampshire, came across a very large collection of condolence letters addressed to Jacqueline Kennedy following the assassination of President Kennedy. These letters, sent from Americans of all walks of life, from all across the country, are both very moving and very valuable in illuminating an extraordinary moment in our nation’s recent history.”
The letter explained Fitzpatrick wanted to publish some of the messages in a book. “Out of the tens of thousands of letters ..., your mother’s letter is one that she would very much like to include.”
The deal: Her son would give permission and provide a brief biography of his mother in exchange for a copy of the book.
On March 11, he received “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation" in the mail. Paul reports, “It made me feel proud. Her legacy will live on through this book. She'll never be forgotten.
“Not only was my mother my best friend, she was my mother,” he points out. When he reads her note to Jackie Kennedy, “it's not hard for me to cry.”
Rose Lee Murphy was born in Cincinnati in 1933 and brought up in Beattyville, Ky., in the Appalachian mountains. After marrying Jerome Paul, they had five children. “She was a real humble person and the type of person who would do anything in the world for you within reach.” His wife adds, “It didn't matter who it was, she had such deep love for everybody. She treated her foster children like they were her own.”
How would his mother feel about her letter appearing in the book? He replies, “It would have been the best thing to happen to her besides us kids.”
ENTRY IN BOOK
Dear Mrs Kennedy & children
this letter may have started plain but my family & I think of you as someone good plain & honest like ourselfs. We miss our wonderful President so verry much. I wonted to tell you that my Mother & Dad are old & sick. but Christmas day there was a small Gift wraped pacage for me under the tree. when I opened it, it was a plate with your husbands picture painted on it. Mother had crocheted with her Crippled fingers a little frame & ribbon all around to hang it by. it’s a wonderful Christmas Gift. One I will Cherish all my life. good luck to you & your children & God bless you Always.
Mrs. Jerome Paul
Debbie Blank can be contacted at 812-934-4343, Ext. 113; or debbie.blank@ batesvilleheraldtribune.com. To comment on stories, visit batesvilleheraldtribune.com.
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