On Nov. 22, 1963 – 50 years ago tomorrow – John F. Kennedy was shot at 12:30 p.m. Milwaukee time in Dallas, Texas, while traveling in the presidential motorcade.
The news of President Kennedy’s death shocked and saddened most Americans and left a profound impact on their lives.
Here are the memories of numerous Milwaukeeans – including a few OnMilwaukee.com contributors – who are old enough to remember details from one of America’s darkest days.
Dave Begel: "I had been kicked out of college and was working in the basement of the downtown Boston Store. I was selling men's bargain clothes under the tutelage of a sleazeball named Duke Essick.
"In the early afternoon he came out of his office – a very rare occurrence – and announced, 'Kennedy's been shot. He might be dead.'
"I wasn't very politically aware, but during my brief college sojourn I had watched with rapt attention the progress of the Cuban missile crisis.
"I liked Kennedy but I wasn't totally in love with him. I was totally in love with Pam Templin, with whom I had a first date scheduled that night. I called her and asked whether we were still on. 'Why not?' she replied, making my heart soar and my imagination run wild.
"When I got home from work I found my Irish-Catholic grandmother glued to the huge TV we had in the living room. She was crying."
David Bernacchi: "My birthday was the day before and I had turned 7. I came home for lunch on the 22nd from my second grade class at 66th Street School on Milwaukee's Northwest Side because my mom said that my uncle Al – who also shared the same birthday – would be there with my aunt Mary for some birthday cake.
"They gave me a present: a game called "Cootie" that’s a roll the dice and build a colorful plastic insect game. Just as I was about to go back to school, the bulletins started coming across the 19-inch black-and-white television set. I wasn't totally sure what was happening, but I knew something was definitely happening by the reaction of my mom and aunt and uncle.
"My mom didn't want me to go back to school, but my uncle said I would be fine. We only lived three blocks away. So I went, but we were sent home that afternoon.
"I recall the rest of that afternoon as strangely quiet at home. Just very still.
"My new sister, Diane, was just 10 weeks old so my mother was occupied with her which seemed normal to me, but my dad seemed different.
"The whole weekend seemed to revolve around the television. My mother, years later, once told me that I said, when I saw the President's casket, it 'looked like a Twinkie with a flag.'
"My dad had kept a scrapbook in a wallpaper sample book, full of articles and many photographs of President Kennedy's career and his assassination. My father kept the scrapbook and gave it to me the first Christmas following the passing of my mother."
Damien Jaques: "This day is still seared in my memory, even more so than Sept. 11. I was a senior at Marquette University High School, and I worked during lunch in the school cafeteria. That meant I was excused from the previous period about half an hour early every day.
"When I arrived in the cafeteria that day, the school lunch ladies who did the cooking had a radio on in the kitchen. The announcement had just been made that the president had been shot. Everyone was stunned and in shock.
"The announcement of his death did not come until later in the day. I was in a classroom when the announcement came over the speaker system. Marquette High is an all-boys school, and it was quite macho in the '60s, but a great sense of sadness hung over that classroom. I remember seeing one of the school's starting team basketball players, a very unemotional guy, looking like he was going to cry.
"My girlfriend, Alla, is a Jewish Soviet emigre who moved to the U.S. and Milwaukee in 1989. Her story is more interesting than mine.
"Alla was 13 years old and getting ready for school when she heard the JFK assassination reported on the radio. Alla was living in Chernigov, Ukraine. The Soviet radio voices were sad, she recalls. There was an uncertainty about why the assassination happened. Seven years later Alla was a pharmacist, and she worked in the hospital pharmacy that Marina Oswald had worked in before she left the USSR with hubby Lee Harvey Oswald.
"The hospital pharmacy was in Minsk."
Larry Johnson: "I was in seventh grade and it was announced over the intercom that JFK had been shot and killed. For a moment there was silence while it sank in. I was stunned. Even more so when a half dozen or so guys cheered at the news.
"Backstory was that the school had a mock election and JFK lost. It was close, but the kids got as wound up as their parents had for the real thing. This was in Mequon and very Republican.
"My family never belonged to a party. The grownups had a rule to never argue about politics, race, religion or money. As for me, I liked JFK. I knew about him as the hero of PT-109 and his idea of going to the moon made for exciting times and the future looked brighter for all of America. Then it was all over.
"It stayed like that for what seemed like a long time. What helped me get through it was how brave his family was through their most tragic time.
"Fifty years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. Thinking back now there were many of us whose childhood ended that day."
Hannah Medrow: "I have a goofy, shallow memory because I was 4. I had come home from morning kindergarten – I went to New Road School, on 13th and Layton which is now the Islamic Center – and was having lunch, looking forward to some afternoon cartoon watching. Albert the Alley Cat had an afternoon children's show, with his pal, Lippy Lucy.
"My mom was drying dishes and watching 'As the World Turns' on TV, and she suddenly gasped and started crying. I remember her holding a dishtowel to her face and sobbing.
"There were no cartoons that day, only Walter Cronkite. The phone rang a lot, and my mom's voice sounded on the phone like when my dad's grandpa Walter had died, a few months earlier."
Robert Schneider: "I was in a department store with my mother in Louisville, Ky. An announcement was made over the intercom system that the president had been shot. One shopper yelled out, "No!" and my mother put her hand on a rack of clothing to stabilize herself. I looked around, strangers were hugging each other and crying. Everyone was saying they had to get to a radio or television. I later received graduate degrees in American history, in part due to the impact of this day."
Toni Spott: "I remember watching the news on our little black and white TV. I don't recall him being shot – I was only 7 then and kind of all over the house – but we were glued to the TV after it happened in total shock."
Ed Werstein: "I was a sophomore in high school, Catholic Central in Monroe, Mich. I was in a U.S. history class – appropriate? – taught by Mr. John Sullivan when the principal, Brother Gerontius, announced over the intercom that the president had been shot.
"We were all incredulous, of course, and Mr. Sullivan, who idolized President Kennedy, quickly left the room – to hide his tears we suspected. Our English class the next hour was interrupted by the announcement that Kennedy had died. It just seemed so surreal. Certainly the most memorable day of my four years in high school.
"When I arrived home later that afternoon, I found my mom in tears and praying for the president and the country.
"To make matters even more surreal, that Sunday after we arrived home from mass and more prayers for the country, we watched on TV as Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the basement of the jail as he was being transferred.
"I don't think we'll ever know the truth about what really happened. I certainly don't think the Warren Commission uncovered the truth."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.