RFK Dies 41 years ago today

Robert F. Kennedy died 41 years ago today.

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I had the opportunity to hear RFK speak at Brigham Young University on March 27, 1968. The 1960s were difficult times – in 1968 – the Vietnam War was raging, RFK was challenging a sitting President LBJ for his party’s nomination, demonstrators were in all of the major cities. Less than a week following RFK’s talk Martin Luther King would be shot & killed. Two months after that RFK was shot and killed.

Kennedy’s remarks on campus were effective. He had done his homework; he had broken the ice and won over the respect of the packed arena. That fairly conservative campus was no longer his adversary but was ready to listen. He spoke briefly and took all questions. Tough questions. He was grilled but he was comfortable explaining his positions on the current state of the war and the country.

I clearly remember his opening remarks – with humor he reached out to his audience and showed respect for their history and beliefs. His actions and remarks echo in today’s headlines.

“Thank you very much. Thank you. I appreciate very much being here at this campus … I understand that this is a campus made up of all political persuasions. I had a very nice conversation with Dr. {Ernest L.} Wilkinson [laughter] … and I promised him that all Democrats would be off campus by sundown [laughter, applause].

But I feel very close to this state. Not only did part of my wife’s family live in the state of Utah for a long period of time, I traveled down your Green River…spent part of the time in the water (laughter) … part of my honeymoon here and I’ve had ten children since – so I have learned something from the Mormons [laughter].

I think that we still have a great deal in common, and in common with the man this university honors. For I too have a large family [laughter], I too have settled in many states [laughter]. And now I too know what it is to take on Johnson’s army. [Standing ovation, laughter and applause].” (Read the complete text at: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol 3, Number 3, Autumn 1968).

The reference to “Johnson’s Army” was a reference to his taking on President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Democratic Party Primaries as well as to President James Buchanan sending General Albert S. Johnston and his troops to quell the non-existent “Utah Rebellion” in 1857. This otherwise obscure reference was well known to BYU students schooled in Utah history. With this series of well thought out personal & historical references he won over the crowd.

After his remarks students crowded around to shake his hand. I was one of them. I was surprised at how short he was. I had always pictured him as over 6’ tall – but he was only 5’9” … shorter than I was then (but now that I am shrinking, I am catching up to him :)

(Photo courtesy BYU Archives).

I learned that day that it is important to see and hear a person speak for themselves – to take the measure of a man. I concluded that he was an honest man who believed in what he was doing and trying to accomplish. It was an honor to shake his hand that day – 27 March 1968.

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Possible Avery Family Artifact dating from 1689-1702 Found

313-year-old English silver sixpence, likely once owned by Rev. John Avery (1685/6-1754) found in Truro, Massachusetts. The coin dates from 1689-1702

The Boston Globe is reporting this unusual find of an early British coin found by Truro resident Peter Burgess while working in his garden.

“At first, I wasn’t sure what it was,” said Burgess. “It didn’t look so much like a coin, but like a brown wafer.”

The coin was minted during the reign of King William III – 1689-1702 who assumed the throne jointly with his wife Mary II – following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which overthrew her father, King James II. “William and Mary” were the only joint monarchs – both serving with equal authority.

Here is what the original coin looked like

Read the entire story here:
Bishop, Stewart. Cape man finds 313-year-old sixpence. Boston Globe 3 June 2009

DNA Study Finds Colon Cancer Risk for Descendants of George Fry who arrived in Weymouth, MA in early 1600s

Today’s Boston Globe is reporting the important work of University of Utah Dr. Deb Neklason, “a professional geneticist and an amateur genealogist;” in tracing the family history of a gene that causes colon cancer through many generations of the descendants of Colonial immigrant George Fry.

She presented her findings at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society last week.

Read the entire story in today’s Boston Globe (4 April 2009) here.

Unusual Obituaries: Sir Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell

Speaking of unusual obituaries.
See this one from GenealogyBank – published in today’s (3 April 2009) Boston Globe.

Sir Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell, son of the late Sir George Sitwell (author of The History of the Fork and inventor of a revolver for shooting wasps).

Boston Globe, (MA) – April 3, 2009
Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell; restored hall of eccentric clan
LONDON – Sir Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell, who restored the stately home of his famously eccentric family to its former glory, has died at age 81.


Sir Reresby Sitwell died in a London hospital Tuesday, his family said. He had been in poor health since suffering a stroke in 2005.

In 1965, Sir Reresby Sitwell inherited Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, the family seat since 1625.

At the time, the rambling three-story, battlemented house near Chesterfield had neither central heating nor electricity, and Sir Reresby Sitwell and his wife, Penelope, were said to retreat to the warmth of their car after breakfast.

The couple restored the house as well as the Italianate garden laid out by his grandfather in 1895. The garden’s attractions now include the National Collection of Yuccas, the succulent genus native to the Southwestern United States.

“His greatest legacy would be the revival of Renishaw Hall, where he resurrected the estate to the former glories of the Georgian era,” said Timothy Morgan Owen, who supervises exhibitions at the house.

Sir Reresby Sitwell was the elder son of Sacheverell Sitwell, who with his brother, Osbert, and sister, Edith, were famed for their literary talent and their quirks.

The trio’s oddity no doubt was influenced by their father, George, who was Sir Reresby Sitwell’s grandfather. He delighted in telling guests: “I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”

George Sitwell dined alone, in full evening dress, exclusively on a diet of roast chicken; he invented a revolver for shooting wasps and wrote a book on “The History of the Fork.”

Author: Robert Barr Associated Press
Page: 12Copyright (c) 2009 Globe Newspaper Company