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TV Specials, Books, Services Remember 25th Anniversary Of JFK Slaying

September 25, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Network documentaries, a string of new books, an all-night Capitol vigil and memorials by former Peace Corps volunteers and PT boat veterans will help commemorate the 25th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November.

But family members plan a low-profile remembrance, much different from the 1983 nationally televised observance of the 20th anniversary of that fateful day in Dallas.

″They have tried to get away from commemorating the day of his death and try to celebrate the day of his birth,″ said Melody Miller, an aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. The senator and other family members have said they will not grant interviews.

Some family members likely will follow tradition and quietly visit JFK’s grave site at the Arlington National Cemetery, while others join family matriarch Rose Kennedy at her regular daily Mass at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Mass., said Ms. Miller, a long-time Kennedy aide who worked for the late Robert F. Kennedy.

Despite the family’s low profile, there are a series of events scheduled around the country to remember the 35th president, his spirit and the events surrounding Nov. 22, 1963.

In Washington, 500 original members of the Kennedy-created Peace Corps will hold a 24-hour vigil in the rotunda of the Capitol, said Dennis Grubb, a Manhattan investment banker and former Kennedy advance man who went to Colombia in 1961 with the first wave of corps volunteers.

Grubb said each former volunteer will read brief eulogies, many written in Peace Corps diaries during the hours and days following the assassination.

After the vigil, a memorial service will be held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral with Sargent Shriver, who was JFK’s brother-in-law and the first Peace Corps director, and Bill Moyers, the television journalist who was an assistant corps director.

Across the river, the Green Berets will conduct their traditional Nov. 22 wreath-laying ceremony at the Kennedy grave site. But cemetery historian Tom Sherlock said starting next year, the Green Berets will follow the family’s lead and hold the ceremony on JFK’s birthday, May 29.

On Nov. 20, surviving members of Kennedy’s 50-officer class, which received its PT boat training in Rhode Island in the fall of 1942, will hold a service at the cemetery and their own wreath ceremony.

″We kept our friendships up all through the years,″ said Fred Rosen, a business consultant in Dalton, Ga., and former Navy lieutenant commander who is organizing the event. ″It’s our own class reunion.″

In Boston, 25 roses will be displayed near the entrance of the Kennedy Library and admission will be free for visitors that day. There also will be a special program for high school students ″who have no memory of President Kennedy and the impact of his death on the world,″ said library spokesman Frank Rigg.

″That day is usually a quiet one here,″ Rigg said. ″It’s more a day of quiet reflection and meditation.″

″I usually go to church, light a candle and have a drink,″ said David F. Powers, one of JFK’s closest associates who is the library’s curator.

In Dallas, preparations continue for a museum at the Texas School Book Depository where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald gunned down Kennedy as the presidential motorcade rode through Dealey Plaza. The museum will not be ready until next year.

In Pennsylvania, scholars and researchers who have devoted much of the past quarter century to investigating the Kennedy assassination will gather at the University of Pittsburgh for a series of seminars.

But television is likely to dominate the anniversary-related activities.

In addition to a string of local JFK specials, CBS, NBC and PBS all are planning extensive prime-time features on the assassination.

CBS News will air a two-hour special Nov. 17, anchored by Dan Rather, that will show highlights of the network’s original 53 hours of live coverage.

″It starts with the bulletin that interrupted ‘As The World Turns’ on Nov. 22 and ends with the burial of President Kennedy,″ said CBS spokeswoman Donna Dees. Walter Cronkite was the anchor at the time and Rather, who is now the network’s anchorman, was the New Orleans bureau chief and lead reporter in Dallas.

NBC plans a two-hour documentary the night of the anniversary, anchored by Tom Brokaw, that will feature old footage along with interviews.

PBS has two JFK specials. A Nov. 15 segment of the series ″Nova″ will focus on new analyses of assassination evidence.

″We undertook an investigation, using modern science and technology, of the physical evidence connected to the assassination of President Kennedy, including ballistics, acoustics, photographic evidence and autopsy evidence,″ said producer Robert Richter.

″We have developed some information that is new that has previously not been developed and we have new findings that have previously not been available. We’ve hired our own experts and they have conducted tests for us.″

Richter said in addition to producing a three-dimensional computerized model of Dealey Plaza, PBS received permission from the Kennedy family to examine photos taken at the autopsy.

Another PBS special, scheduled for Nov. 21, includes interviews with Kennedy friends, associates and others to ″try to recapture the impact of the Kennedy assassination and its meaning 25 years later,″ said David Merrill, a spokesman at WNET in New York.

ABC had no plans for a JFK special, although the network is working on a mini-series on the Kennedy clan based on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin book, ″The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.″

A dozen new JFK books are being published around the anniversary.

Some celebrate Kennedy’s life and times, including a compilation of his speeches, statements and writings by former aide Theodore Sorenson, a biography and an assembly of Life magazine photographs.

Others focus on the assassination, such as a collection of new letters from leading political, sports and entertainment figures discussing their recollections of the assassination and its impact on their lives, including contributions from Michael Dukakis and George Bush.

And several books talk about assassination theories - old and new.

Warren Commission counsel David W. Belin has written a book defending the panel’s oft-maligned investigation and conclusion that Oswald acted alone, while two others look at the possible role of the Louisiana mob in the slaying.

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