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Nov. 22, 1963: Bend residents recall fateful events


The shockwaves of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy a half-century ago were felt across the country, including here in Bend. Jim Peterson, who is 94, remembers where he was on one of the most infamous days in U.S. history.

“I was at this store in Beaverton and somebody said, ‘Kennedy has been shot,’ and boy, that is a shock to your system, because everything changes right quick,” Peterson said Friday.

Peggy Schwarz remembers it being a sad day in her neighborhood in New Jersey, where she lived at the time. She really identified with the president, because of his faith.

“I was very upset, because he was the first Catholic president. I’m Catholic, and it was a senseless assassination, as far as I’m concerned,” Schwarz said. “I just wish it never happened.”

Bill Ruiter, who was a college sophomore on that day, said he believes the landscape of the times would have been completely different if JFK wasn’t killed.

“I don’t think we would have stayed in Vietnam. I think after the election in 1964, he would have brought the advisors home, and I think that really would have changed the world,” Ruiter said.

Even after the assassination, Kennedy’s legacy continues to live on. Peggy Barnett said his administration symbolized youth and change, something we strive for today.

“He was really popular for a president,” Barnett said, “I thought it was really a shame, because everybody was enthused about a young president and the way the country would go.”

Ruiter said he still remembers crying and saying a prayer for Kennedy after hearing the news. Fifty years later, he still has the same reaction.

“This morning, when it was on the news, my dog and I went for a walk and I heard it at 7 o’clock,” Ruiter said, “I still get tears in my eyes. He was a good president.”

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