BOSTON — A preview of John F. Kennedy memorabilia, including notes by his special assistant on the day the president was assassinated, is drawing hundreds of people to the northern Massachusetts town of Amesbury.
David Powers, who died in 1998, was Kennedy’s assistant and close personal friend of his and his wife, Jackie. Powers also was the first curator of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston until he retired in 1994.
Powers joined Kennedy for his first political campaign for Congress in 1946 and was with him when he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. He collected keepsakes and documents spanning his years of friendship with the Kennedy family.
On Sunday, Powers’ collection of about 2,000 photographs, documents, gifts and other JFK items will be auctioned in 723 lots at John McInnis Auctioneers in Amesbury.
The auction house says Powers’ relatives found “an extraordinary collection” locked away last year as they prepared to sell the family home. Powers’ family is keeping some memorabilia and may give other items to the Kennedy Library.
The collection has drawn hundreds from New York, New Jersey, New England and elsewhere to assess the items in the days leading up to the auction, said Dan Meader, an appraiser for the auction house.
The items include Powers’ copy of the presidential itinerary on the day he was assassinated in Dallas. The documents contain handwritten details of Kennedy’s final hours, including the time he was shot, how Powers helped carry him in a stretcher to the operating room, the time of death and the aftermath.
The collection also features a leather-bound book of presidential inaugural addresses containing a poignant message written by Mrs. Kennedy to Powers.
“For Dave Powers, The President was going to give you this for Christmas. Please accept it now from me. With my devotion always for all you did to give Jack so many happy hours. You and I will miss him the most, Jackie,” the message, written weeks after Kennedy’s assassination, reads.
“It’s really emotional,” Meader said. “There are tears in people’s eyes … when they look at the schedule, when they look at notes from Jackie.”
The collection also includes items illustrating light hearted moments of the Kennedy presidency. They include a President’s Special Award that Kennedy offered to Powers during a surprise celebration he arranged at the White House to mark the aide’s 50th birthday.
The tongue-in-cheek award is signed by Kennedy and reads: “Presented to David F. Powers on his 50th Birthday. In recognition of your athletic ability in hiking to my icebox to drink my Heikens,” a reference to Heineken beer.
A red ribbon on the award reads: “Physical fitness program walking 50 miles per month from TV to refrigerator and back.”
The JFK Library, which is charged with promoting the life and legacy of Kennedy, says it is working with Powers’ family to figure out whether some of the items actually belong to the institution and should be returned.
At the request of Robert F. Kennedy, Powers in 1964 began assembling and collecting Kennedy memorabilia that was to become part of the library’s permanent exhibit, the library says on its website. He also traveled around the world with an exhibit to raise money for the library’s construction, the website says.
Powers’ daughter, Mary, declined to comment for this story.
“So there are things that the library will still be getting from the Powers family – the family has not given us every single thing that they have,” Meader said.