Englishman snaps a very close-up photo of JFK in the early summer of 1963 

Photo below

Forest Row is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kinds of places. It’s just a dot on the map in the middle of green forests and English farmland. And in the center of town, there’s a plaque.

“This stone commemorates the visit of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America, to Forest Row on Sunday, the 30th of June, 1963.”

As short as Kennedy’s tenure as president was, he still managed to squeeze in over a dozen foreign visits at the height of the Cold War, and one of the last included a trip to this tiny English village in rural Sussex, just south of London, to attend Sunday Mass.

President Kennedy was en route back to Washington from visits to Germany and Ireland when he stopped in Britain for a quick meeting with then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at his country estate, named Birch Grove.

Old newsreels from the day report that the stopover lasted a mere 24 hours. With such a tight schedule, Kennedy’s visit to Forest Row’s only Catholic church for Sunday service would have been brief — not much longer than the Mass itself.

Lifelong resident Harold Waters, who was 23 years old then, says it was a big deal for the village. He and his wife grabbed the new color camera they’d bought for their honeymoon and went out to watch the president’s motorcade arrive.

Kennedy come through,” says Waters from the same corner he stood on fifty years ago. “My wife was five months pregnant at the time with our first daughter. So we came down here and waited and, eventually, we saw the cars coming down the road — an unmarked police car at the front, and two security cars and Kennedy’s limousine. He came down the road [and] very slowly went around the corner.”

So Waters was well positioned to see the president. He holds up a rare, crystal clear, color photograph taken so close you can see the reflection of the crowd in the side of the car as Kennedy waves from inside.

“I nipped across to the traffic island that’s just over there, had a word with the policeman and the security man, and said, ‘Can I take a picture of President Kennedy from here? Is that alright?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ So I stood there and I got the picture I wanted,” recalls Waters. “It wasn’t until he was assassinated that I realized that he’d only been three or four feet from me with no bulletproof glass or anything between us.”

Indeed, the car was the same Lincoln Continental Kennedy rode in when he was assassinated less than five months later.


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