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Remembering JFK's stop in the Poconos

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 20 2013 05:11:35 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 20 2013 06:38:34 PM CST

Friday marks 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed.

Friday marks 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed.

Just two months before that fateful day, he was speaking in the Pocono's\ helping to dedicate a historic site.

"This was exactly the spot, the stage was set up here," Lori McKean of Grey Towers pointed too, on the Pike County property.

The stage was for President John F. Kennedy.

"More than 10,000 people filled this field, sitting on that rock wall back there and up in the trees," McKean said.

They came to hear Kennedy honor former Pennsylvania Governor and father of American Conservation Gifford Pinchot. JFK dedicated Pinchot's Milford home Grey Towers, as the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.

The date was September 24th, 1963. It was less than two months before Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

"Of course the nation was just shocked but when you had this connection with Kennedy even if you didn't speak to him personally, they saw him and were close to him. A lot of people we spoke to who were here that day were affected by it," McKean said.

She says this was JFK's first stop on a 11 state conservation tour. After landing via helicopter Kennedy toured the home, then spoke for 15 minutes.

On site newspaper clippings give a glimpse into the hysteria.

"Schools were closed all over the region. People from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to hear him speak," McKean said.

The 102 acre site is open for public tours and still serves as a catalyst for conservation.

This past September Grey Towers hosted a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's coming.

McKean says the visit lent a validity to the site and to Pinchot's work.

"The significance that this place played in protection of natural resources, in conservation policy making and the establishment of the U.S. Forest Service," she said.

Kennedy's day in Dallas will never be forgotten but neither will his day at Grey Towers.