Fern Hope Mason
To me, he was a very real, living, breathing person, and not just a cardboard cutout figure in my history book at first St. Ann’s School on Green Mount Avenue and then, later, at Calvert Hall College High School, Towson.
I was for him the very first time I heard him speak on television, and prayed, “Please God, let this man become President.” He, I, and all the nuns at St. Ann’s got our wish, too.
I spent the summer of 1960 on my late grandmother’s farm in the mountains of East Tennessee, where there was only one TV channel in those days.
Together, we watched every single day of both the Democratic and Republican national conventions that year — gavel to gavel — and so saw JFK nominated.
On Sept. 16, 1960, Kennedy spoke at a rally in the parking lot of then Towson Plaza Shopping Center just a block from where I’ve lived since 1989 — and next rode south down York Road, where he passed by my house at 2619 Green Mount Avenue in Waverly, just within the last five years being torn down
That hot, sunny early evening, driving about four feet from where I stood, JFK rode past, and I watched history pass by me, almost alone on that deserted street.
A friend’s mother told me that all I had to do was stand there and I’d see him, so I did, on both counts.
Reportedly she — Mrs. Betty Egger — was waved to by the candidate one story below her, where she returned it from that floor’s living room window, as told to me by her son, John Egger, former U.S. Marine Vietnam and now retired from the New Jersey State Transit Police.
He was sitting atop the back seat of a convertible on the car’s trunk.
The year before, I’d read an article in then Look magazine by a retiring Secret Service chief, who wrote how easy it would be to kill a President riding in an open car with a rifle from a building.
I thought of that as JFK glided past me, even looking at the rooftops across the street as he rode by.
He looked like nobody I’d ever seen, before to now, and I’ve seen most of the other major Kennedys — except Robert — since then.
To me at 13, he appeared to have a huge head sitting atop a very slender body, his trunk forming a V from his narrow waist up to his shoulders.
His head reminded me of a large football, with a steel wool-like thick, reddish-sandy brown head of hair atop it. His ruggedly lined, tanned face reminded me of a slab of steak.
Then he was gone. I watched the Jan. 20, 1961, Inaugural Address on TV, as St. Ann’s shut down in honor of that day.
On the day of his death, I was in then Brother Leo’s French class at Calvert Hall it Towson near here, when the room’s public address system simply came on without warning.
We heard the unadorned radio bulletin that he’d been shot.
Next, we heard that he’d been killed, and that school was dismissed.
Again, it was unseasonably warm outside for late November, a few days away from the annual CHC-Loyola football game..
Three years later, I was under enemy Communist Viet Cong fire in South Vietnam in his anti-Communist war there.
In 1988, I wrote a full magazine on the 25th anniversary of his murder that didn’t make it to press.
Now — 25 and more years later! — my book was published in the UK and distributed in the US and worldwide for the 50th anniversary of the event that changed all of our lives, and our country’s history forever.
It is, Dallas Fifty Years On: The Murder of John F. Kennedy/A New Look at an Old Crime, Nov. 22, 19632013.
I was 16 in 1963, and 71 now.
I have kept faith with John F. Kennedy as best I could, in war and peace, in life, and in politics.
The wheel has now turned full circle.
Hail, JFK — and farewell! Blaine Taylor is the author of 22 illustrated books worldwide. His next Kennedy book will be published in 2019, BOBBY! From Robert F. Kennedy to RFK/A Life on the Way to Death, 1925-68.
On November 16, 2018, Fern Hope Mason (nee Harris), the beloved wife of 38 years to the late Howard R Mason Jr., passed away at age 97 ½ at Lighthouse Senior Living, Essex, MD.
She had worked in the office at Bethlehem Steel and had an interest in modeling.
She enjoyed dancing, golf, crosswords, word search, and loved trailer camping around the country. She was the family historian. They lived in Perry Hall, MD, before moving to Florida. She returned to MD four years ago.
She was the daughter of the late Roy Lee Sr. and Carrie Hardaway (Snead); Dear stepmother of Terry Lee Blevins (Jim) and Howard F. Mason (Darlene); loving grandmother of three grandchildren: Renae, Benjamin, Joshua; 10 great grandchildren; sister of Frank B. Harris, Joan S. Ruth, the late Doris Curcio, Deane Lowe, Jean Clarke, Robert S., Roy Lee Jr. and Gilbert L. Also survived by many loving nieces and nephews.
Funeral Service will be held at the family owned Duda-Ruck Funeral Home Inc., 7922 Wise Ave. 21222 on Monday November 26 at 10 a.m. Interment: Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. The family will greet friends on Sunday, November 25, from 3-6 p.m. at the funeral home.
JFK (center) waves with left hand during a campaign rally in the parking lot of the-then Towson Plaza Shopping Center on Sept. 16, 1960. I saw him within an hour of this picture having been taken. In the lineup with him from left to right are unknown man, Louis L. Goldstein, MD Gov. J. Millard Tawes, Mayor J. Harold Grady of Baltimore, JFK, City Comptroller Philip R. Goodman, Congressman Dan Brewster, two unknowns, and FDR Jr. Just behind the unidentified woman in sunglasses at right is Dundalk politician State Sen. Roy Neville Staten.
FERN HOPE MASON