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Kind Gestures By Strangers

On November 21, 1963, rooms at a hotel in Fort Worth were being readied for the visit of President John Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline. The space appeared lackluster for such dignified guests, so a pair of local art patrons got busy and borrowed paintings and pieces of sculpture from friends and local museums to elevate the ambiance of the suite.

President Kennedy was in Texas attempting to garner support for re-election. Socialite and patron of the arts Jackie was recovering from the August death of their two-day old son Patrick and had promised John Jr. to be home for his third birthday the following week.

As soon as Air Force One touched down the pace was grueling, but the energetic Kennedy loved every minute of it including taking security risks by breaking protocol. By nighttime, when they reached their hotel, Jack decompressed over room-service coffee in the living room while Jackie retired. The space was no doubt dimly lit because neither noticed the bounty of art all around them until the following morning.

In the Master bedroom, intended for Jackie but used by J.F.K., were paintings by Prendergast, van Gogh, Dufy and a cityscape by John Marin. In the second, smaller bedroom, chosen for the President (but occupied by Jackie) were paintings by Eakins, Hartley, Marsden, Twachtman, and a piece, a large canvas. depicting cowboys with Blackfoot Indians. The parlor had paintings by Monet, Lionel Feininger, and a dynamic work by Franz Kline. A table held a bronze sculpture by Henry Moore. A work by Picasso, titled Angry Owl sat on the coffee table.

The next morning, after co-hosting a breakfast for 1,000 in the hotel ballroom, Jackie returned to the suite and phoned thanks for the surprising and thoughtful array of priceless art pieces curated and installed especially for their enjoyment.

What happened later that day shocked the world. Television sets in businesses and homes played constantly with people desperate to try and make sense of a world turned upside down. Events unfolded rapidly until on the third day came the complex and dignified funeral which Mrs. Kennedy patterned after that of another assassinated president, Abraham Lincoln.

Unspeakable, earth-shattering events happen unbidden and unwelcome. For me, learning that the Kennedys had spent their last night together surrounded by borrowed artwork installed by strangers who hoped to make their stay more enjoyable was comforting. Sometimes writing about sad times can help ease the pain. has journals for every mood and occasion. Many include prompts to aid you in organizing your thoughts.

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