What was the reaction of our community’s leaders and clergy to the tragic death of President John F. Kennedy shortly after noon last Friday?
The Observer sought and thanks the mayors of the community’s four municipalities and its clergy for the following expressions of the shock, grief and future hopes associated with the assassination of our universally respected and admired Chief Executive.
Mayor Joseph M. Healey: “The residents of Kearny, along with the peoples of the world, are stunned and grief-stricken in the tragic death of the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
“All regardless of political affiliation and religious faith are outraged at the assassination…. His death has brought sadness to each home and is felt as keenly as if we had lost a beloved member of our family.”
Mayor Frank E. Rodgers of Harrison: “Individually and collectively, the people of Harrison, our country and the entire world have lost a great and courageous leader. … His tragic death leaves me shocked and stunned beyond expression.”
Mayor Peter R. Tonner, North Arlington: “The people of North Arlington, of all religious faiths and political allegiance, were equally shocked, bewildered dazed and indignant in the senseless assassination of our beloved President . . . President Kennedy’s tragic death is a personal loss to every American….”
Mayor Harold Larsen, East Newark: “Words cannot express my feeling of unbelief that even a distorted mind could create a motive for the brutal assassination . . . . Every American has suffered a loss that may well be felt by succeeding generations….. Our prayers are that God, in His own way, will assuage the grief and loss … and guide our new President and our nation through one of the most trying times in its history.”
Rev. Howard W. McFall Jr., First Presbyterian Church of Arlington: “I am deeply shaken by the tragic death of our President. He was a man of unquestioned conviction and courage who overcame the religious barrier to become the great leader of us all. The course of freedom has lost one of its greatest modern defenders….”
Rev. Joseph A. Carroll, St. Cecilia’s Church, Kearny: “Friday, while we were commemorating the feast of a great martyr, St. Cecilia, our patroness, shocking and stirring news reached us that our beloved President…had been assassinated. He, too, became a martyr on this day because he had the courage to fight and to campaign for his convictions and beliefs — freedom for all peoples.”
Rev. Leopold Schneider Jr., Davis Memorial Methodist Church, Harrison: “Shock turned to outrage at the enormity of the crime. Then grief and bewilderment drove us to prayer . . . prayer that the President’s family should be sustained in their deep sorrow… that God will give wisdom and strength to our new President and guide our beloved nation through this difficult time.”
Rev. Albert H. Beemer, Grace Methodist Church, Kearny: “I had read of Presidents Lincoln and McKinley being assassinated, but I somehow felt we had matured as a nation to where this could not and would not again happen…. May each of us be united by Friday’s tragedy that our nation shall be stronger in faith and good works than ever before.”
Rev. Philip H. Peterson, First Lutheran Church, Kearny: “A nation has lost a great President and a dynamic leader. And yet, has it? For if we wish to truly mourn this untimely passing, we must seek to fulfill his high ideals . . . .”
Rabbi Sidney M. Bogner, Congregation B’nai Israel, Kearny: “The senseless and wanton act that widowed a young wife, orphaned two children, bereaved his family, impoverished our country and saddened the world reminds us that we still need guidance and prayer before we can truly achieve a civilized status….”
Msgr. LeRoy McWilliams, Queen of Peace, North Arlington: “The sudden death … descended upon all of us like a thunderclap and plunged not only our own country but the whole world into mourning… [The Kennedy] assassination is the great tragedy of our time.”
Rev. Stanley C. Tiller, First Methodist Church of Arlington: “I was riding in Kearny Ave. en route to West Hudson Hospital, when a voice coming over my car radio announced, ‘The President has been shot.’ Then followed . . . the announcement that [he] had been killed by an assassin’s bullet. The emotional impact was stunning . . . By midafternoon, the church telephone began to ring.
“Voices, choked with emotion, asked if the church might be opened for prayer. This was done immediately, and dazed and shocked people made their way to church to pray.”
Rev. Robert C.W. Ward, Trinity Episcopal Church, Kearny: “Every citizen who takes public office offers his being for his country. It is the privilege of only a few to give their lives. . . . John F. Kennedy had already counted the cost. Tragic as it is, in his death we see the glory of our democracy — to be effective, it requires our all.”
Msgr. Adrian A. Maine, St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny: “… the memory of Mr. Kennedy . . . should spur us into renewed efforts for a national atmosphere of mutual understanding, forebearance, justice and right reason — and thus bring an end to prejudice, bigotry and hatred, which begets deeds of violence.”
Rev. William J. Hausmann, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Harrison: [President Kennedy] was a casualty in the battle against the forces of tyranny, injustice and inequality among men. He lived and died heroically.”
Rev. Arthur F. Thurber, First Baptist Church of Arlington: “The hours of utter shock and grief are still with us. Never have so many persons felt such a tragic loss so deeply and personally. This great soul who challenged us with the stirring words, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,’ has himself given the full measure.”
Rev. Hedley Jenkins, Christ Episcopal Church, Harrison: “I am shocked that such a deed was possible by what I regard as inadequate security and too easy possession of firearms. … Until the church succeeds in ironing out this violent streak in the national life, the U.S. will never achieve her proper and rightful stature in the eyes of the rest of the world….”
Rev. Michael F. Calabrese, St. Anthony’s Church, East Newark: “In the passing of this great man we recall the great causes he espoused and defended. His help to the oppressed, the lowly and the aged enkindled within us a greater dedication to our country.”
(Editor’s note: For space reasons, we have had to excerpt some quotes rather than printing them in full. Likewise we could not use every statement provided in the original text.)