Osborne retraces JFK funeral procession to Arlington National Cemetery
SALISBURY — Terry Osborne could not let the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s funeral pass without being in Washington, D.C., and making a visit to Arlington National Cemetery.
Arriving in Washington early Monday morning, Osborne retraced — he walked it — the entire route of the JFK funeral procession from St. Matthew’s Cathedral to the cemetery.
The three-mile trip became longer when Osborne made a detour to the Lincoln Memorial, where several other people had gathered first.
Osborne’s trek had several highlights:
• He stood on the spot in St. Matthew’s Cathedral where the casket of Kennedy rested during the requiem mass.
• He met a couple from Barcelona, Spain, at the Lincoln Memorial and shared some of his knowledge about Kennedy’s assassination.
• He had a long conversation with a mother and her 13-year-old daughter from Buffalo. They, too, were fascinated with the JFK assassination.
• He paused on the Arlington Memorial Bridge and looked toward the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
• He met and spoke with 11 members of the Irish Defense Forces’ 37th Cadet Class, which at the request of widow Jacqueline Kennedy in 1963, had served as the honor guard at Arlington for JFK’s burial.
The men, 50 years older now, had made the trip especially for the 2:15 p.m. ceremony Monday. President Kennedy, whose family roots were Irish, had admired the troop’s precision months earlier in 1963 when he made a visit to Ireland.
• Osborne also met Anne Anderson, Irish ambassador to the United States.
• He struck up a conversation with retired Irish Defense Forces Cadet Billy Nott, the man who personally accepted Jacqueline Kennedy’s invitation to be part of the Nov. 25, 1963, honor guard. Nott read the W.B. Yeats poem, “Cloths of Heaven.”
• Osborne listened to mournful bagpipes play Kennedy’s favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
• To top things off, Osborne was interviewed for a Time Warner Cable report from the cemetery.
The day brought a sense of closure to Osborne, the 60-year-old general manager of the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board.
For 16 years, mostly at West Rowan High School, Osborne had taught contemporary studies and political science classes.
Osborne and the students often delved deeply into this time period and the Kennedy assassination.
He routinely took students to Washington and Arlington National Cemetery, which often included a visit to the Kennedy’s grave with its eternal flame.
Osborne estimates he chaperoned more than 2,000 students to Washington during his teaching days. Each year, he tried to reward at least two students by taking them to the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of Kennedy’s death.
Osborne held, as with many Americans of his generation, a personal fascination into the details of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, by Lee Harvey Oswald and the days that followed.
Those days included a stunned nation mourning Kennedy, Oswald’s being gunned down by Jack Ruby and Lyndon B. Johnson’s transition to president.
As a teacher, Osborne also took three groups of students to Dallas. They visited Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy’s motorcade was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, and the Texas Book Depository, from where Oswald fired the fatal shots.
Osborne was a 10-year-old at Woodleaf Elementary School the day Kennedy was killed. The school learned of the assassination by the principal’s announcement over the school intercom.
Trying throughout the day to follow the same kind of time schedule as Kennedy’s funeral, Osborne said he stayed at the cemetery until 3:34 p.m. Monday.
His shins ached from the walking, and his feet were tired from breaking in new dress shoes.
Osborne found a cab to return him to his Washington hotel, and he was home in Rowan County later Monday evening.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.
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