Thursday, November 21, 2013

On Kennedy, the Peace Corps, and a woman who was there

      For work this week, I wrote about the Dallas Morning News and their JFK50 project, telling the story of Kennedy's assassination from the city where it took place and the journalists who covered it. 
     And in my reporting, I learned about Mary Woodward.
     Her notes, and the notes of other reporters, photographers and staff, are now collected in a book, "JFK Assassination: The Reporters' Notes." One of them was Woodward. The night before, she writes, she made sure to give herself a manicure.
     "I knew the president wouldn’t see my hands reaching out from the crowd, but somehow I couldn’t bear the thought of going to cheer the president looking less than my best," her notes read from a June 5 piece.
     Woodward wrote this month about what happened next for the Morning News. 
    "That particular Friday was Nov. 22, 1963, and on my 'extended' lunch break, while standing with three friends in front of the Texas School Book Depository, I witnessed (as the fifth-closest witness, according to an official source) the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy."
     Woodward rushed back to the newsroom and wrote, what she called, the story of her life. And then, about one year later, she quit and joined the Peace Corps. 
     “I didn’t want my life to be over before I got the chance to do some of the things I never got to do,” said Pillsworth, 73, in a September 28th story about where the reporters who covered that day are now. “I’d had a very sheltered life, and it just made such an effect on me in coming to grips with the reality on life.”
     Pillsworth went to Brazil, met her husband, a fellow volunteer, and she continued being a journalist, starting a community newspaper, the story reports. 
     As the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination approaches, you can find a lot of great memories from people who were alive that day, including this piece from Peace Corps Worldwide's John Coyne, who was in service in Ethiopia. Coyne's also collecting and telling memories from other volunteers here, and he writes about Kennedy and the start of the Peace Corps here.
     That day in Dallas, writes Woodward, now Mary Woodward Pillsworth, she stayed to help translate for Spanish-speaking reporters.
     "On my way to their home the next morning," she writes, "I took the dress I had worn that Friday to the cleaners. Strangely, I never picked it up."

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