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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
State Sen. Tom Wyss was an apprentice at GE when he heard about President Kennedy.

Tom Wyss

State Sen. Tom Wyss was 21 and remembers the day JFK died vividly.

He was attending apprentice school at GE in downtown Fort Wayne. From the tool room, he picked up the phone to call his girlfriend. But before he could hit 9 to dial out he heard pieces of a conversation about someone being shot.

At first, Wyss thought it was the Fort Wayne mayor. A colleague took the phone and said, “Oh my god, it’s the president.”

Wyss and others ran to another room in the building with a radio. “Everyone shut down the machinery and listened,” he recalls. “It was eerily quiet.”

A few days later GE allowed everyone to go home and watch the funeral – with pay.

“I ended up getting a bust of Kennedy. Had it for about 15 years,” he said.

Back then Wyss – a Republican now – didn’t identify as Democrat or Republican. And he was drawn to Kennedy even before the assassination.

“I liked him. He was Catholic and he wasn’t someone my grandpa’s age so I could relate to him,” Wyss said.