Thursday, March 6, 2003
THURSDAY, MARCH 6 TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
So I've Heard Column
John J. McNally of Bluffton, S.C., was in town last month for a first anniversary Mass in St. Joseph's Basilica for his late life partner, Irene (Kokocinski) McNally.
John and his beloved left Webster 12 years ago, after Mr. McNally retired from a public service career that included a magical tour as President John F. Kennedy's White House coordinator. Mr. McNally found time for friends, including coffee and talk with this writer. It was his turn to buy.
Mr. McNally hearkened to the Kennedy years for a first time in our series of relatively brief meetings. The sessions had been chit chat and background on developments, but he mentioned the JFK years this visit because of a personal time line and a commitment.
Time can hang heavy at day's end for a widower, so Mr. McNally, whose free moments went to family, and to groups like the Webster-Dudley-Oxford Chamber of Commerce and Hubbard Regional Hospital through his many years in Webster, got to sorting personal papers.
Some of them brought fond recollections, like the day he held a cribbage hand that would have given him the game, and watched as his long time friend, the late George Radopapaulos, owner of a shoeshine stand, came up with a perfect hand. "We made your column," he laughed. "You couldn't get a shine in there without a game of cribbage," Mr. McNally remembered. The cribbage board sat atop a candy counter in the store, located for decades in the Holden Block Arcade on Main Street.
What he really gathered, though, was a chronology of his function in the White House, how his office dovetailed into the political side, and his role in support of the President, the First Lady, and their young family. Packaged and finally in good order, Mr. McNally donated his White House papers to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston.
Mr. McNally had scheduled a taped interview with people from the Kennedy Library some time ago, and slid the session into his February schedule because it was convenient for both parties. The library staff is preparing a program for the 40th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination Nov. 22, 1963. Mr. McNally drove up from his North Carolina home early to accommodate this.
The interview took place in a Worcester law office, conducted by a young woman who "really knew her business," Mr. McNally said. He described the taped session as "intense." It rounded out to 3 hours and 20 minutes.
"Remembering the fine points of things that took place 40 years ago wasn't easy," said Mr. McNally. "She (the interviewer) really dug into things."
Mr. McNally considered a return to this area last year but elected to hold tight. His five sons are scattered about, from Webster to Joplin, Mo., and in between, but daughter Mary lives in Savannah, about 20 minutes from Bluffton. Son Tommy remains in Webster and keeps "grandfather" space. "Webster will always be my first place to visit."
Mr. McNally spends much of his time these days speaking before school and college groups. If there's an honorarium it goes to charity.
Make this take 4 to the World War II Air Warning Service story about airplane spotters at the Webster Athletic Field. The station--a little square building that remains in place--was manned by World War I veterans, homemakers, and teenage volunteers, judging from the flow of reports.
Rosemarie Kaczynski says her sister, Theresa Neeser Arter, now of Davenport, Fla., shared a "spotter watch" with a school chum, Excelle
Incidently, recollections of the AWS station, brought up by Irene Konkel, and carried to this point by Donald Wayman, Norman Deptula, Jim Jodoin, Robert Gatzke, and Leonard Wisnewski, threatens to eclipse this corner'
Telegram & Gazette
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