Nov. 22, 1963: JFK assassination shook High Desert

Residents call the shock of the news that changed the world

Central Oregon remembers JFK

BEND, Ore. - Friday marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. Although it took place more than 2,000 miles from the High Desert, it shook the area like it shook the nation.

A Bend Bulletin article from Nov. 22, 1963 read, "President JFK was no stranger to Central Oregon. On a crisp day on November 7, 1959. he visited this part of the states," visiting Powell Butte for its annual Lord's Acre Day.

Almost exactly four years later, newspaper headlines were much more ominous. "The President is Dead," was plastered in big black letters across the local paper.

The Bulletin said, "As news of the assassination spread through Bend, small talk dried up, business came to a stand still shoppers in stores with radio or television left business unfinished and stood, dazed, listening to the news."

"I was 26 years old, a typical stay at home mother, housewife," Betty Rogers a resident at Aspen Ridge, recalled Wednesday.

Others have a clear memory of that day as well.

"It just came over the news and at first it was just whisperings, you know," said Roy Eskildson, another Aspen Ridge resident.

"One of the workers came in while we were drinking coffee and he said, 'The president's just been shot,'" said Jim Chapel also an Aspen Ridge resident.

After they heard, they turned to the news for answers. Many couldn't believe the news.

"Walter Cronkite was there, telling us all about it. Ad I was just in shock I don't know what else to say," Rogers said.

Disbelief was a common reaction.    

"Well, you know, I was very, very upset, and I couldn't believe it was true," Eskildsen said.

"Just utter shock," Chapel said.

For many, losing President Kennedy to an assassin was more than just losing a leader.

"This was more like a brother," Rogers said. "So it was more like family."

His death caused despair where there was once hope. Rogers said.  

"There was something about him that, I don't know, gave people my age at that time a great deal of hope. And he had so much charisma," Rogers said.

Now, we can only imagine how things would be different if he lived.    

"He was going to do wonders for us," Rogers said. "We didn't know what but it was going to be a wonderful world."

Kennedy was a man that defied political parties to touch Americans' hearts across the nation.

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