600 attend Kennedy Memorial dedication

This week’s historic postcard focuses on the John F. Kennedy Memorial located in the Colonnade in Concourse Park at the intersection of St. John Avenue and Gladstone and Benton boulevards. The Chrome “Tetricolor” style postcard was published by James Tetrick at 619 W. 33rd street in Kansas City, Mo.

The monument, a nine foot sandstone pillar with a profile in bronze of President Kennedy in bas-relief was dedicated on May 29, 1965, the cost fully underwritten by the Campo Manfre Barbieri Post 151 of the American Legion. The memorial, according to published news stories, was the nation’s first memorial to the recently fallen president.

A newspaper clipping from The Northeast News archives.

The ceremony was attended by over 600 people according to a story published in the June 3, 1965 Northeast News and was “a great day in the history of Northeast – probably the greatest single event ever.”

Fifth District Congressman Richard Bolling was the keynote speaker at the event and quoted President Kennedy’s pledge to liberty, “These words represent more than an eloquent promise of a young President and a new administration. They are a statement of American principle.”

As part of the dedication, a young Victor Cascio, then 13 and a patrol leader for Boy Scout Troop 80, “directed the pledge of allegiance with a strong voice.” Also present, giving a 21-gun salute were the rifle squads from combined ROTC units from Northeast, East and Southeast High Schools, Sergeants Lowe and Froelich in charge.

Local ROTC units give a 21-gun salute to the recently fallen president. From The Northeast News Archives.

Joe Monte, Post 151 Commander, noted that invitations to the dedication were sent to the slain president’s widow Jacqueline, Senator Robert Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson and a number of others in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. None attended and their letters of regret were read as part of the dedication ceremony.

Always on the cutting edge, The Northeast News called out in print the conspicuous absence of the city’s mayor, Ilus W. Davis, and four sitting city councilmen. The invited councilmen included Sal Capra, Bruce Watkins, J.D. Robins and Clark Ridpath. Apparently Mayor Davis was the only one who “telephoned prior to the hour of the dedication,” noting he would be absent due to an “emergency developing in the campaign to obtain the atom smasher for this city.”

A newspaper clipping from The Northeast News archives.

Absent in pictures taken by The Northeast News at the dedication is the eternal flame that burned atop the memorial. The natural gas fixture was added shortly after the ceremony and is present in the postcard picture. In recent years, the flame and its associated plumbing had been the target of vandals and scrap metal thieves, so much so that it was finally removed by the Parks Department. A new plan was approved to completely remove the natural gas fixture and all its associated plumbing and replace it with an electric substitute flame with a smartly styled, Mission-style, faux alabaster shade. That work was recently completed and the new “flame” flickers once again atop the 57-year-old memorial.

A December 2021 view of the new electric flame. Photo by Michael Bushnell
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