Remembering the John F. Kennedy visit to West Bend

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019,946 President Kennedy Today, Nov. 22 is the 52nd anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy.

The 35th President of the United States was assassinated in 1963 while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.

From a history standpoint, Kennedy campaigned in West Bend while he was seeking the democratic nomination for President of the United States.

The Research Center at the Washington County Historical Society provided a photo of Kennedy’s visit to West Bend in Feb. 17, 1960, when he was a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.
The picture shows Kennedy walking north on Main Street with Thomas F. O’Meara Jr. on his right.

Former West Bend alderman Tom O’Meara III said his father was head of the Washington County Democratic Party in the 1960s and he was the one responsible for bringing Kennedy to town.
“He put out an invitation for Kennedy to come to ‘this mostly republican-bound territory,’” said O’Meara III.

Kennedy spoke at the VFW and stopped at the O’Meara’s house on 9th and Walnut St. “My mother made him lunch,” said O’Meara III.

“I don’t know what they had for lunch I was in school,” he said. “But my father enjoyed Kennedy very much; he was a fellow Irishman and they spent most of their time talking about Irish heritage,” said O’Meara III.

A story printed in the West Bend News reported mayor Walter Schmidt presented the senator and his wife with gifts from the city of West Bend.

Kennedy then addressed the crowd at the VFW and spoke of the recession of 1958, noting “we must keep employment at a high level to prevent loss in tax dollars so essential for the economic welfare of the country.”

The senator was scheduled to have dinner at the Mermac hotel. Enroute to the hotel on foot Kennedy stopped cars and people, shook hands and introduced himself.

The photo was taken as the Senator walked downtown and met with business owners. “I don’t think there are a lot of people in town that knew Kennedy, as a junior senator, was ever in West Bend,” said O’Meara III.

Photo courtesy the Washington County Historical Society.

For reproductions of this photograph, and others, contact Heather Przybylski at the Washington County Historical Society Research Center at [email protected]

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