Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For many Americans it will always be considered a dark day in history — but that’s not the case for one northeast Iowa family. As the shots rang out that killed Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, around 12:30 in the afternoon, Walt and Rita Ruth of rural Janesville were in a hospital room in Waverly celebrating the birth of their first child. The girl they named Kaylene was born about an hour and a half before the fateful event. Unlike a lot of people at the time, Rita says she didn’t hear about the assassination right away. She says she was pretty well zonked out on anesthetic and may not have been aware it until that evening. Walt says the assassination was a shock, but they’d been waiting a long time for the arrival of their baby and it didn’t interrupt that joy. Rita says the impact on the extended family was the same, as the death of the President wasn’t enough to get her mom to go out into the rain to the barn to tell her dad the news. She says the barn was across the cow yard, so it was muddy and yucky to get out there. When her mother heard the news the president had been killed she decided to wait until the men came in for dinner to tell them the news. Then the phone rang a short time later with Walt telling the news of the new baby, and Rita says her mom immediately dressed and headed out to tell her husband they were grandparents. Most of the rest of the country sat glued to the t-v over the next several days as the country mourned Kennedy’s loss — but Walt wasn’t one of them, between doing chores on his farm and visiting his wife and new baby, he says he didn’t have time. Rita says she wasn’t scared about the fate of the country or the future of her daughter, even though the president had been shot. She says in retrospect, 9-11 was more fearful because she didn’t know how much farther the attacks would go. Walt says he never forgets his daughter’s birthday because there’s always talk of the Kennedy assassination around that time. He says as she got older that wasn’t always a good thing. He says when she got older she wanted it to be remembered as her birthday, not the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. Each year when people start reminiscing about where they were when they heard the news of Kennedy’s death, Rita says she usually has the best story to tell.
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