Kennedy Memorial


John Fitzgerald Kennedy Obituary

American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1917-1963

Among his many distinctions as President of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy remains the youngest man ever elected to the office of Chief Executive, and the youngest man to die while still fulfilling his duties. Serving as America's President, John F. Kennedy held his office for 1,000 days, dying November 22nd, 1963, assassinated at the age of 46.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29th, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts, the 2nd son of 9 children of the affluent, Roman Catholic Kennedy Family. Kennedy's father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy was a self-improving multi-millionaire who had built a financial empire through ventures in banking, the stock market, ship building and the motion picture industry and liquor distribution. Kennedy's mother, Rose Fitzgerald was of Irish ancestry like her husband, and daughter of former Boston mayor John F. Fitzgerald. As family patriarch Joseph Kennedy was a hard task master who pushed his children to achieve and often pitted them against one another competitively. John Kennedy's childhood was one spent at exclusive private schools, including Canturbury School of New Milford, CT and preparatory school at Choate Hall in Wallingford, CT.

At the age of 18 John Kennedy spent a year at the London School of Economics while Joseph Kennedy served as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. Kennedy returned to America to attend Princeton University, but left during his freshman term due to a case of severe jaundice. His illness may have been caused by a condition the Kennedy family kept secret throughout his life: John Kennedy was of the 1 in 100,000 people afflicted with  Addison's Disease, a rare but serious disorder which affects the endocrine system.

Kennedy enrolled at Harvard in 1936, where he was a cum laude graduate of the Class of 1940. His senior thesis, on England's military unpreparedness had been based on his experiences in London and a 6-month turn as his Ambassador father's secretary, and later the thesis was expanded into his best selling book, While England Slept.

As a youth John F. Kennedy never aspired to a career in politics, but had hoped to become a journalist. Joseph Kennedy, as head of the nation's Securities and Exchange Commission and a U.S. Ambassador, groomed his eldest son, Joe, to carry on and expand his family's political tradition. Joe and John Kennedy both enlisted in the armed forces during World War II, John joining the U.S. Navy in 1941.

In 1943 while assigned to the South Pacific as the commander of a torpedo boat, John Kennedy was nearly killed in action when his ship, PT 109 was rammed and sunk by an enemy vessel. The 26-year-old Kennedy, though seriously injured, managed to bring his surviving crew through miles of hostile waters to safety, an act which earned him the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism. Kennedy's injuries critically aggravated an old back injury, and despite what proved to be chronic pain, he returned to active duty and served until 1945. Kennedy's older brother Joe, the heir apparent to the Kennedys political tradition, did not survive the war.

Once stateside, John Kennedy was able to briefly pursue a journalism career as a reporter for the Hearst Newspapers, but was steered into politics by Joseph Kennedy. In 1947, John F. Kennedy was elected the Democratic Congressional Representative for Boston, Massachusetts, and in 1953 became a U.S. Senator. That same year, on September 12th, 1953 Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier.  John and Jackie Kennedy would have three children: Caroline, John Jr., and a second son, Patrick, who died shortly after birth in 1963.

Kennedy had not served long as a husband or U.S. Senator when his chronic back problems required extensive surgery, the second of three major orthopedic procedures he would endure in his life. Kennedy put his convalescent time to good use, penning the Pulitzer Prize winning history, Profiles in Courage, an account of the lives of eight American Senators. Kennedy's surgeries proved unsuccessful in alleviating his chronic and nearly crippling back pain, but he ran for Vice President in 1956, narrowly missing the Democratic nomination.

In 1960, now a young, personable family man, highly literate, a war hero and  Pulitzer Prize winner, Kennedy had the Democratic Party backing for President and took part in the first televised debateof Presidential hopefuls against the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon. Political analysts even 40 years later maintain that Kennedy's on-camera charisma during the debate sealed his narrow victory at the polls. In November 1960, John F. Kennedy, 43 years old, became the 35th President of the United States of America, the youngest man voted into the Chief Executive office, and the first Roman Catholic.

John F. Kennedy's stirring inaugural speech, which included the famous "Ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country" expressed his vision and his promise of a nation dedicated to culture, human rights, and unified ideals. Kennedy's domestic plans and economic programs pushed America toward its greatest period of expansion since The New Deal. His civil rights reforms were led by the 1961 Executive Order for Affirmative Action, which encouraged projects financed by federal monies to integrate their workplaces to include women and minorities. The Affirmative Action order was a first step toward his Commitment to Desegregation. On the home front, Kennedy promoted protection for freedom fighters, use of the National Guard, and the formation of The Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps to assist developing nations and neglected poverty pockets within the United States.

From the beginning of his Presidency, Kennedy faced troubles from abroad, beginning with the Bay of Pigs disaster only four months after he assumed office. That invasion by Cuban exiles (who had been trained by the CIA before Kennedy was voted into office) on Cuba and their unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Castro regime left Kennedy accepting responsibility for the failed coupe. Kennedy soon found himself caught in a nuclear stand-off with the Soviet Union, which had increased efforts to absorb West Berlin and was in the process of installing nuclear weapons in Cuba. Kennedy's 1962 show of military force during the Cuban Missile Crisisled to a Soviet withdrawal and subsequent agreement with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev on a nuclear weapons test ban. Their Test Ban Treaty was what the young President Kennedy believed would be an easing of tensions between the two world powers. In later days, U.S. Astronauts and Soviet Cosmonauts, once rivals in the Space Race, would work together in the frontier Kennedy had so strongly promoted.

On November 22nd, 1963 after 1,000 days in office and with many of his domestic and economic plans poised for implementation, John F. Kennedy and his motorcade wound through the streets of Dallas, Texas on what would be his final personal appearance. Seated beside his young wife, Jackie in the back of an open convertible, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was fatally wounded by an assassin's bullet. Kennedy's alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, was murdered before he stood trial, shot by Jack Ruby while under heavy security two days after his arrest as a suspect in President Kennedy's assassination. The conclusions of an extensive investigation into Kennedy's death and Oswald's murder were documented by the Warren Report.

At the time of his death, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was survived by family: His wife of 10 years, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, daughter Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, and son John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. , as well as his parents and siblings including notably brothers Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy.

In the years following his assasination, President John F. Kennedy has been commemorated for his civic and humanitarian works through such named institutions as Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Kennedy Space Center, the John F. Kennedy Library in Washington, and San Francisco's John F. Kennedy University.