Friday, November 22, 1963: The Tea House at the corner of West 17th and Gould Streets on the campus of the College of Saint Teresa in Winona, Minnesota. That’s what the late Norbert Geier remembered.
We’ve met numerous people over the years here at Bellairsia, mostly sharing memories of John and his life and times. Sometimes the stories recall momentous events – the publication of a book or the news of a chance encounter – but often than not they are just anecdotes of what was happening a generation or two ago. This story is a bit of both.
Geier worked alongside Bellairs in the English department at St. Teresa’s. Both were alumni of Notre Dame, Geier having a decade of professorship under his belt at this Catholic women’s college while this was Bellairs’ first full-time teaching position since leaving graduate school in Chicago. Besides the obligatory dormitories, there was an on-campus church and social center-of-sorts known as the Tea House – of which Geier recalled:
“This was where students could purchase food and beverage, and socialize; lay faculty often ate lunch if they were on campus. John Bellairs often had lunch there. I remember we were eating in the Tea House on November 22, 1963 when we first heard about the assassination of President Kennedy; however I am not sure that Bellairs was in the Tea House on that occasion."What happened that day is generally known: President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas while on a political trip to Texas. He was taken to Parkland Hospital for emergency medical treatment, but pronounced dead at 1:00 pm. Only 46, President Kennedy died younger than any U.S. president to date. Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee of the Texas School Book Depository from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested on charges for the murder of a local police officer and was subsequently charged with the assassination of Kennedy. He denied shooting anyone but was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be indicted or tried. Ruby was then arrested and convicted for the murder of Oswald.
Kennedy’s assassination left a lasting impression on many Americans, with the question, “where were you when you heard about President Kennedy's assassination” a common topic of discussion in subsequent days and weeks and, indeed, decades.