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Where were you? Cape Coral residents remember JFK assassination 50 years later

By Staff | Nov 21, 2013

Paul Sanborn, one of the forefathers of Cape Coral, might have the best recollection of what happened on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

The day before, he went to see him in person.

There are certain moments in people’s lives where they remember where they were and what they were doing.

Some are private moments, such as a loved one’s death. But there are others that affect an entire nation, such as Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

Another such moment was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Today marks the 50th anniversary of that day, and for those who remember, no matter how old they were, they knew exactly where they were that day.

Or in Sanborn’s case the day before.

“The day before he was assassinated in Dallas, he spoke at the Armory in Tampa. And three of us from Gulf America Land Corporation (including Connie Mack Jr.) flew to Tampa on company aircraft and had seats in the balcony of the old Tampa Armory to hear him.”

Sanborn said he doesn’t remember what Kennedy talked about, but after the speech he and his party flew back home. So it was a great shock to learn the next day that he was assassinated.

“We just saw the man yesterday and it was a great shock to all three of us,” Sanborn said. “That’s what I remember most. That remembrance came back to me.”

Sanborn remembered Kennedy as a representative of a city in its infancy, and still considers his flirtation with greatness a high point in his life.

“He was a respected person and he received a standing ovation after his speech. It was a great thrill to be in the same building with him,” Sanborn said.

Few others had that kind of closeness to history. And as nearly all current Cape residents who remember that day were many miles away.

Rick Williams, the newly elected District 6 councilman, said he was working his first job at a Radio Shack in West Hartford, Conn. when he heard the news.

“It was a shock to everyone. Nobody believed it. We didn’t have the complete immersion of the media back then. We had phone calls,” Williams said. “I was just out of high school and not much into politics, but when he and anyone got killed it’s upsetting.”

Williams said that was the day all the hopes Americans had of Kennedy went out the window and the country was never the same.

“He was a family man and so young. Many people looked for him to do great things and it popped that day,” Williams said. “It really changed things.”

Dolores Bertolini remembered washing the floor, and being “extremely pregnant” with her daughter while living in Staten Island, N.Y.

“I was preparing lunch and my almost 3-year-old son was balking at what I was making,” Bertolini said. “A bulletin came on the TV and he wanted to change the channel and watch cartoons, but it was on all the channels.”

Bertolini’s husband then called, saying he was coming home because the president had been shot.

“President who?” she asked. “I was stunned. We spent the next two weeks engrossed in the whole thing and my daughter was born. Anybody who lived in that era knows what they were doing.”