The decade began with so much hope

During the last part of his presidential campaign in 1960 John F. Kennedy made a sweep through West Virginia speaking everywhere he could. He came to my home town and on the Sunday morning of his visit attended mass at the church where my mother, sisters and I went every week.

It was our custom to sit in a pew midway down the center of the church- my three sisters and mother would fill one pew and I would sit in the pew directly in front of them. On this particular Sunday, right after we were settled,  there was a lot of commotion at the back of the church.  Shortly a very pregnant woman, a little girl, and several tall gentlemen appeared at my pew and proceed to enter. I scooted across to my right to let them in. During mass I was seated next to the pregnant woman, her daughter clung to the man on her left and the others sat sternly at the end of the pew. I had no idea at the time that I was sitting with the young Kennedy family (not being a very worldly or political type). After mass as we exited the church and I saw the family was surrounded by people shaking hands and  taking pictures.  I asked my mother what all the fuss was about.  She told me that was Senator Kennedy and his family. He was running for president-the first Catholic to do so- We hoped he would win. I couldn’t help myself; I felt very proud. I had shared my seat with the next president of the United States!
That day began my great love affair with the Kennedy’s. They were one of us. (small town Catholics were a minority at that time in WVa and we often felt as though we were somehow very odd or very special.) When JFK did become president and John Jr. was born, I somehow felt I knew them. We went to church together. He was MY President. She was MY First Lady.

Over the next few years, it pained and confused me a lot to hear JFK so severely criticized by other students in History and Civics classes and school debates. It didnt matter to me what he did or did not do, I knew him. Why were they so mean? He was our president!  (this, I believe was the beginning of my lack of tolerance for Republicans:-)