Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Woman recalls meeting JFK in 1963

Breda Hickey met John F Kennedy in 1963

A woman who met John F Kennedy at the US ambassador's house 50 years ago has relived the magical day.

Breda Hickey, 75, stood among the ranks of diplomats in Dublin's Phoenix Park when President Kennedy called out to her and took her by the hand.

"It was magic. He was the most extraordinary man I've ever seen in my life," she said.

Ms Hickey, who grew up in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford and lives in Raheny, followed up her 1963 embassy trip by getting on board the Navy vessel LE Orla to pay her respects at the flame taken from the eternal one on JFK's grave.

The pensioner was allowed on board by Lieutenant Commander Conor Kirwan as it berthed at Sir John Rogerson's Quay in Dublin.

Fifty years on, Ms Hickey was just as excited to see the flame - to be used to light an Emigrant Flame at the Kennedy's ancestral home in Wexford - but wishes she had met his daughter Caroline Kennedy.

"As a matter of fact when I shook John F's hand I actually couldn't say a word which was very disappointing to me really," she said. "I would have love to have shaken Caroline's hand this morning and say the things I wanted to say at that time."

The flame from the grave in Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Virginia is being taken by the Navy to Wexford as part of a series of engagements to commemorate the June 1963 trip.

The LE Orla's Sub Lieutenant Ciaran O'Shea walked Ms Hickey on deck. "I hoped to see some of the Kennedys, but I'm delighted I got to see the flame," she said.

Ms Hickey revealed fond memories of JFK, who she described as tall, sun tanned and "absolutely gorgeous with a beautiful smile". "It was the most magical day of my life, it really was," she said.

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