ALAMO HEIGHTS, Texas – Along the curb on Broadway next to Cambridge Elementary School, Alamo Heights’ first John F. Kennedy memorial was dedicated Thursday.
Kennedy's presidential motorcade drove by the city Nov. 21, 1963.
President Kennedy visited San Antonio to inaugurate the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base.
The memorial’s most striking feature is the iconic photograph etched in bronze that captured the moment the school’s awestruck fourth graders saw Kennedy.
Now a retired commercial realtor, Kenneth Pruitt, then only 10 years old, said he’s still amazed.
“He made eye contact!” Pruitt exclaimed.
Pruitt said Kennedy, with first lady Jaqueline Kennedy at his side, turned toward the students to wave.
A print of the photo taken by Maj. W.M. Kardegg was entrusted years ago to Jim Berg, a retired businessman.
Realizing its historical significance, given the photo was taken 24 hours before Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Berg said, “The picture should not go into a closet and be forgotten.”
Berg, who was previously in the digital media business, donated another print to hang inside Alamo Heights City Hall. He said then-mayor Louis Cooper also agreed there should be a memorial at the site where the children were watching.
Berg said he raised $25,000, with much of it coming from the now-former students in the photo, including Pruitt.
Pruitt said since most TV sets then were only black and white, “To see the president in color, it was just bigger than life."
Before the motorcade reached the students, it also passed in front of the barbershop once owned by Victor Sumerlin’s father.
Sumerlin not only saw the president, his mother used her new Bell and Howell 16mm camera to film the motorcade. The next day, as his mother was ironing, she saw the televised bulletin about Kennedy being shot and killed in Dallas.
Recalling how he saw his mother cry for the first time, Sumerlin said, “I’m tearing up now, 56 years later, but she loved JFK.”
Sumerlin said he’s grateful Berg took the initiative to create a memorial.
“It’s so much history for Alamo Heights,” Sumerlin said.
Having cut the ribbon in front of Cambridge Elementary students, past and present, on the 56th anniversary, Berg said, “I’ve done my job. I feel very complete right now.”