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President John F. Kennedy smiles at the crowds lining the motorcade route in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Minutes later, the president was assassinated as his car passed through Dealey Plaza.

Residents share the grief, joy of birth dates linked to Kennedy’s death

Yoder
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Don Yoder’s birth certificate shows his iconic birth date, the day of President Kennedy’s assassination.
McGuire
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Bernie Huesing, in the living room of his Fort Wayne home, holds a photo of his daughter Jennifer, who was born Nov. 22, 1963.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Kim Whitenight, born the day Kennedy died, now reads books about the late president.

C. Bernard Huesing was exhausted, but sleep was a luxury he could rarely afford.

His days were spent in graduate school, his evenings tending the front desk at a nearby motel and his nights studying. What precious free time he had was devoted to his daughters, ages 2 and 4, and his pregnant wife.

So on the autumn day when his wife, Patricia, was wheeled into the delivery room, Huesing hit the books. The 30-year-old didn’t want to waste time sleeping in her quiet hospital room.

After a while, two nurses and a doctor walked in. Huesing had experienced this type of announcement twice before, but not like this.

“They were crying. Even the doctor had tears in his eyes. I thought something had happened to my wife and baby,” Huesing said.

Looking back on that day, the 80-year-old Fort Wayne man assumes that anxiety was written on his face.

“They said, ‘No, your wife and baby girl are fine. It’s just that we learned that President Kennedy has been shot and killed,’ ” he said. “Once I found out everybody was OK and Kennedy died, I just couldn’t hold it back.”

Huesing wept.

Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, is seared in many memories as a day of great sorrow. But for some families, that grief was mingled with the joy of welcoming a new baby into the family.

Those children – now adults fast approaching their 50th birthdays – say they have grown up with an intense connection to the JFK legacy.

Interesting detail

Jennifer Huesing Stachniak, a patent attorney living in Boulder, Colo., said her parents reminisce every year about the historic event.

“That has always been a part of my birthday,” the married mother of three said.

But, she added, the connection to Kennedy’s death didn’t put a damper on the day. Her parents, who both grew up in Irish Catholic families, don’t approach it as a somber occasion.

In fact, Stachniak said, she’s amused by the embellishments that have crept into the narrative as the story has been retold over the years.

Her father, known to friends as Bernie, was in his first semester at Purdue University’s Krannert School, working toward the equivalent of a master’s in business administration, when his third daughter was born.

The young family ended up in Huntington, where Huesing eventually bought the Maco Corp. in 1982 and founded a precision machining company, Huesing Industries. The Huesings have since divorced.

Stachniak, who graduated from Huntington North High School in 1982, admits that her birth date is an interesting detail. But she’s asked her mother to stop mentioning it during introductions.

“That tells people how old I am,” she said, laughing. “I don’t need that!”

Unforgettable day

Jennifer Huesing wasn’t the only baby born on that historic day, of course.

Halfway across the country, Kim Whitenight was born at 6:15 a.m. on Nov. 22, 1963.

When she was growing up outside Buffalo, N.Y., she asked her parents how they felt on the day she entered the world – the day the president was shot and killed.

“They said, ‘It was a happy day until he died, and then we were sad.’ I said, ‘You were sad? Even though I was born?’ And they said, ‘Yes,’ ” she said.

As a little girl, she was terribly hurt by their answer.

“When you get older, you get over it,” she added.

Whitenight, who moved to Fort Wayne seven years ago for her husband’s job, now can even find an upside to the timing.

“No one forgets your birthday,” she said.

A little help, please

Don Yoder’s mom was in labor at St. Joseph’s Hospital on the afternoon of Nov. 22.

Although it was an important day for the Yoder family, she wasn’t exactly the center of attention in the labor room, where everyone could watch the assassination coverage on a TV.

Yoder, who was born shortly before 5 p.m., said his late mother used to joke that she wanted to say, “Hey, I’m over here. I need a little more attention. I’m having a baby.”

The nurses tended to patients, as needed, and baby Don was born.

Yoder, a Fort Wayne tax accountant, was disappointed that more people didn’t mark the 25th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination

“I’ve always been kind of fascinated with the day itself,” he said.

“I’m glad that people are still remembering it.”

‘How could you?’

Dan McGuire is the youngest of six kids in an Irish Catholic family.

His sister – the oldest and the only girl – was a 15-year-old sophomore at Bishop Luers the day he was born. McGuire made his debut within minutes of Kennedy’s death.

Susan Geile, who now lives in St. Louis, said Nov. 22, 1963, remains one of the worst days of her life. She recently recalled that “everybody was just hysterical” at the school.

But it wasn’t just Oswald who devastated her. Her own mother let her down.

“My sister came to the hospital crying hysterically and said, ‘How could you have a baby on a day like this?!’ ” McGuire said. Or, he added, maybe she screamed it into the telephone to their late mother. The details are lost to history. Even Geile isn’t totally sure.

“I was 15 years old and so emotional,” she said in a phone interview. “We all just loved (President Kennedy).”

But McGuire, a tool-and-die maker, is more confident about details of another anecdote from that day. It’s one his siblings have repeated over the years – and Geile confirmed.

“She wanted my mom to name me John Fitzgerald,” he said. “But the rest of the family had to remind her that we already had a John.”

sslater@jg.net

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