Friday, November 22, 2013

Jackie Kennedy's condolence thank-you cards - one came to me

On November 22, 1963 I was 11 years old. I remember where I was when I heard the news, of course, and subsequently was watching live black and white TV when Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby. During these days I asked my mom what I could do, and she suggested that I send a letter of condolence to Jacqueline Kennedy.

I promptly wrote and sent the letter. Its contents are no doubt lost to history, but I saved the response I received in March 1964, after the Beatles had arrived in America and the world was rapidly changing beyond belief from those dark November days.

The black-rimmed card reads "Mrs. Kennedy is deeply appreciative of your sympathy and grateful for your thoughtfulness." The accompanying card has her signature on the upper front right-hand corner in place of a stamp, my name and address written in exquisite calligraphy in ink, and her married name printed across the back flap.

My newly-12 year old self also saved the March 18, 1964 New York Times article, "Shamrock is left at Kennedy grave," describing Mrs. Kennedy's visit to her husband's grave on St. Patrick's Day, and announcing "Mrs. Kennedy chose today as the "appropriate" time to acknowledge the messages of sympathy she received after her husband's death. She mailed 900,000 black-bordered prayer cards and letters"....the article adds that 2000 volunteers had been working since the previous December to open and sort the letters; that 1000 per day were still arriving at the White House; that the signature-franked letters had been distributed over a week's time to avoid post office overload.

-- Hilary Lambert November 22, 2013