A half-century has passed since President Kennedy's death

Fifty years ago tomorrow, just about anyone older than that remembers where they were when the news came of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

It was, many believe, a turning point in the nation, in the century. Here, as across the nation, across the world, people were stunned. The Bulletin’s headline ran across most of the front page: Wilton Mourns Loss of President; Crowds Attend High School Rites.

The accompanying story quoted the Rev. Robert L. Green Jr., rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, who said at a communitywide memorial service on Monday, Nov. 25, 1963, “The assassination of President Kennedy has shocked the world, stunned the nation, and shaken us as individuals. The whole world is crying. Have ever so many people cried together?”

According to the story, motorists who heard it on their car radios spread the word in town about 1:45 p.m. that day, which was also a Friday. As people rushed to radios to hear for themselves, worse news came: The president was dead.

“Whatever people were doing to occupy their personal lives, or planned to do that evening, suddenly lost all importance,” the story, which carried no byline, continued. “Public events, in Wilton and elsewhere, were canceled.”

Scheduled to take place that night was the Wilton Playshop’s production of Little Mary Sunshine; the Wilton High School Drama Club’s presentation of You Can’t Take It With You; and a dance at the Cannon Grange planned by the Hot Rod Club.

Our Lady of Fatima scheduled three special Masses for that Monday, which was a national day of mourning. The First Church of Christ, Scientist held a memorial service for the president as well that Monday.

More than 800 attended the service at which Mr. Green spoke, held in the Wilton High School auditorium. Every seat was filled and people spilled out into the foyer to remember the nation’s 35th president.

The Rev. Chester E. Miller of the Wilton Congregational Church led the congregation in prayer and “A Litany of the Nation.” The Rev. Kenneth Robinson led a prayer and read from Ecclesiastes and Hebrews, and Mr. Green delivered the memorial sermon.

Witness to another death

The front page also carried a story about Mrs. Reginald H. Squires of Old Farm Road in the Weston section of Georgetown, and a former Wiltonian. She recalled how, when she was 7, she and her family traveled to Buffalo, N.Y. That was September 1901 and they were there to visit the Pan-American Exposition, as was President William McKinley. She recalled being in their hotel room, which overlooked the fair entrance, when she heard shots. “She looked out just in time to see President McKinley’s assailant subdued in the entranceway,” the story said.

The world reaction then was nothing like the reaction to President Kennedy’s death. “The world was much larger then,” Mrs. Squires said in 1963, “and the United States held nowhere near the position in the world that it holds now.”