With today’s anniversary of the assassination of the nation’s 35th president, John F. Kennedy, approaching, Weatherford resident Althea Connally remembered a letter she saved written by her late husband, Bob Carlson, to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy five days after the president’s death.
Bob Carlson saw parallels to himself and JFK, beginning with they both served in the Navy. Both were new fathers. As it would turn out, both at the times of their deaths were 46 years old.
Like many Americans, Althea and Bob Carlson were moved by the tragic events in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
“I know we were glued to that TV,” said Althea Connally.
They were living in Manasquan, N.J., at the time. Althea met and married Bob after his medical retirement from the Navy, during which he contracted a disease that he lived with for 25 years before it caused his death in 1968. She then married Bob Connally, also a Navy veteran, whose military career led them to different places, including Washington, D.C., where he worked at the Pentagon with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They eventually settled in Houston. After his death in 1990, Althea said she moved to Weatherford to be near a friend living here.
But on Nov. 27, 1963, Bob Carlson, the father of a 6-month-old son, rolled a piece of paper into a manual typewriter and banged out a heartfelt letter to Jacqueline Kennedy. The Carlsons would later receive a card of receipt and appreciation from the First Lady.
“They had millions of letters,” said Althea. “Even if the staff did it, it was still nice to receive an acknowledgement.”
The text of her husband’s letter to Jacqueline Kennedy follows:
Dear Mrs. Kennedy,
Undoubtedly you have received many, many letters in recent days that have expressed this thought that I am about to say, but nevertheless, I feel a great inward urge to write this letter to you.
I am not a young man but one who is quite near our late President’s age and like him I am the father of a new son.
Your husband has given America something that is the very backbone of our nation.
My father came to this country in 1908 at the age of 19 with no more materially than his passage here. In his heart he knew he was coming to the land of the free and the place where he had the opportunity to fulfill any dreams for those willing to have the courage to see them through.
The word courage is the one that compels me to write this letter. Many times in my life I have faltered because the burden seemed too hard or I did not have the “courage” to see things through. Perhaps because I am not made of the same things our president was, I will always falter somewhat along the way. Now that I have been blessed with a new son, I again have been afforded the opportunity to give to someone the same thing that our beloved president has given the American people and that is courage . He was the very embodiment, of the word.
He has renewed a flame in my heart for what America stands for. Every bit of progress that our country has experienced has been founded on courage.
All that I can do now is say “thanks” for rekindling this flame and I pray that it may never be extinguished.
Robert D. Carlson
Ens. USN (Ret.)