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More vignettes from President Kennedy's stop in Duluth

Coffee and sandwiches Barbara (Smith) Fermenich was a floor worker at Hotel Duluth in 1963 and said she brought coffee and sandwiches to the 14th floor where Kennedy was staying. She said she had to take her cart on the freight elevator because n...

President Kennedy in the limo
President Kennedy waves from his limousine while sitting with Minnesota Gov. Karl Rolvaag in the early evening of Sept. 24, 1963, in downtown Duluth. Because of rain, the bubble top was up on the Lincoln convertible.

Coffee and sandwiches

Barbara (Smith) Fermenich was a floor worker at Hotel Duluth in 1963 and said she brought coffee and sandwiches to the 14th floor where Kennedy was staying. She said she had to take her cart on the freight elevator because no one was allowed to use the regular elevator while the president was there. She was greeted by Secret Service agents and sent back on her way.

Fermenich said she saw Kennedy in the lobby and her brother Steven was serving as security with the National Guard. She went to UMD to hear Kennedy speak.

"I was excited," she said. "He was a very handsome man."

She watched in horror along with her co-workers at the hotel café two months later as assassination coverage played on the television.

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"It was bad," she said.

Going up?

Richard Cheslak was one of two elevator men who rode up and down with the president at the Hotel Duluth.

"I was in awe of everything," he said. "I just kept quiet."

There is a picture of him with Kennedy as he exited the elevator.

"Outside of my marriage, that was the highlight," he said.

On the 14th floor, Cheslak recalled seeing open rooms with automatic weapons on dressers.

'He waved back'

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Joanne Smith Gerber was 13 when she and her father heard JFK speak at UMD.

"While I didn't really understand much of the speech, I remember being very impressed with him," she said. "My mom was taking a night class at UMD and her professor allowed his students to take a break in time to see JFK's motorcade drive by. My mom waved to him and he waved back. My sister played saxophone in our high school pep band and they provided the welcoming music for JFK at the airport."

Who's in that limo?

Bob Kolojeski of Cotton remembers being issued a new M1 carbine rifle as the National Guard prepared for its security detail.

"I don't know if they were ever loaded or not," he said.

He also recalls getting a yellow scarf to dress their uniforms up.

He ended up at UMD with strict instructions not to let anyone near an area where the president was expected. He recalls stopping a limousine only to realize it was the one carrying Kennedy.

"You don't know," he said of his efficiency.

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He got a military salute and was glad to get an "up close" look at the president, just as his uncle John Malinowski had as an engineer at Hotel Duluth.

Top view

Debbie Nygard-Stratioti was 9 and her girlfriend's father owned the Sherwin-Williams paint store on Superior Street.

"We had ladders in the front window and I swear he looked and waved right at us, as we were above the people on the street. I don't think I've ever been so excited."

Winning smile

Florence Anderson is one of many who felt a personal thrill while standing along the motorcade route.

"As he passed me, the president looked at me, smiled, and waved," she said. "I was impressed with his charisma and friendliness."

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