Friday marks the 56th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. News of his death on Nov. 22, 1963, shocked the nation and sent people into a state of mourning for the fallen leader.
Humboldt County grieved in kind for the late president, according to many accounts in the Humboldt Times and Standard newspapers from the time.
Most all public and private institutions in the county were closed Nov. 25, 1963, the day of Kennedy’s funeral in Washington, D.C.
Federal, state, county and city offices were closed, as well as schools, colleges, financial institutions and many businesses. Most food stores were shut while the funeral service was under way, reopening for business by the afternoon. Countless club and group functions — including meetings of the Women’s Civil Defense Corps in Fortuna and the Humboldt Development Association in Eureka, as well as a Redwood Art Association show at the Humboldt Federal Savings Building in Eureka — were canceled, too.
Churches throughout the county held special services the evening of the assassination and in the ensuing days. First Presbyterian Church in Eureka held several memorial services following Kennedy’s death with Rabbi Lee Trepp preaching. The Rev. Allan Chalfant of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Arcata said Requiem Holy Communion and worshippers at First Baptist Church in Arcata joined with the Rev. Michael Petrillo in prayer and meditation. An overflow congregation at Temple Beth El of Humboldt County gathered Nov. 22, 1963, for a memorial service for Kennedy. Trepp also conducted this service. A special children’s service followed the next morning at the temple.
A Mass of Requiem took place the evening Kennedy died at St. Bernard’s Church and was led by the Very Rev. Monsignor John Farrell. The next morning, Nov. 23, 1963, Farrell led a Solemn High Mass of Requiem, with Father Mitchell Culligan preaching the eulogy. Father Vincent Radvina and Father Iginio Fontana also assisted. Kennedy was the first (and so far only) Catholic to hold the presidency.
President Cornelius Siemens of Humboldt State College sent out a news release on Nov. 25, 1963, regarding college sessions and activities. He said, “In keeping with the National Day of Mourning, Humboldt State College, including College Elementary School, will be closed. … An all-campus memorial service honoring the late president will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 26, at the college flagpole on Sequoia Avenue.”
Heather Shelton can be reached at 707-441-0516.