Boat belonging to JFK to be on display in Oklahoma
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — If you work for Tulsa-area businessman Eddy Gibbs you learn pretty quickly to never be shocked.
“I was surprised when Eddy called and told me he bought a boat,” said Jon Davidson, vice president of operations for Shangri-La Resort. “I didn’t even know he liked boats.”
Then, Gibbs threw a real curve ball.
“He told me it was JFK’s wooden speedboat and wanted to know if we had room in the lobby of the hotel,” laughed Davidson. “It was a short conversation. Of course we do.”
That was in October. By November, the boat, a 17-foot mahogany beauty built in 1961, was at the Shangri-La marina.
“We put it in the water to test it and it purred like a cat,” said Mike Williams, director of communications at Shangri-La.
The boat, which will soon be exhibited on a display being built for the Shangri-La resort hotel lobby, was owned at various times by four Kennedys, including John Fitzgerald Kennedy when he was president. There are dozens of pictures of JFK and his family driving the boat. It was docked near the family compound near Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, the Tulsa World reported.
“It is a very cool thing,” said Davidson. “When we got it here and looked at it, we were stunned at how great of condition it is in and how beautiful it was.”
Gibbs was a fan of the Kennedy family, especially JFK, and loves “one-of-a-kind collectibles and this is certainly a one-of-a-kind collectible,” said Williams.
Gibbs jumped at the chance to get a rare piece of Americana.
“That was such an important time in our history,” said Gibbs. “It truly was a time of Camelot for our nation. John and Jackie Kennedy were inspirations to us all. Then, to see that Camelot dream shattered by JFK’s assassination changed our nation forever.
“I rank that tragedy up there with Pearl Harbor, the Murrah Building bombing and 9/11.”
Gibbs is fonder of golf than boating. In fact, Gibbs, who made Ameristar Fence Products into one of Oklahoma’s largest and most successful homegrown companies, bought Shangri-La so that he could make sure his favorite golf course was preserved and improved.
He started with the golf course but has embarked on a renaissance for the Shangri-La resort that anchors the south end of Monkey Island on Grand Lake. Gibbs has spent six years, and by some estimates upwards of $35 million, bringing Shangri-La back to life including a 120-room resort hotel. It opened in May.
“I’m excited to have a piece of history to remind us of those Camelot days and the nation’s historic love of water, boating and recreation that we promote at Shangri-La,” said Gibbs.
Gibbs is just the third owner of the boat since the Kennedy family sold it a little over 30 years ago.
It is a 1961 Century Resorter, which Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. won in a church raffle.
Joseph, JFK’s father, previously had a boat named “TENOVUS,” referring to the 10 members that at one point made up the Kennedy family. By the time the Kennedys acquired the speedboat the family had grown to include grandchildren and the new boat was dubbed “THE RESTOVUS.” It was later shortened to “RESTOFUS,” which is what it is now painted on the back of the boat.
After JFK’s assassination, the boat was passed on to Jackie Kennedy, then to Bobby Kennedy and finally Ted Kennedy. Ted took it in to be refurbished and told the mechanics that it needed some work, according to Howard Boats of Barnstable, Massachusetts. “My brother Jack drove that boat like it was PT-109 (JFK’s Naval assignment in World War II),” Ted told mechanics. “He was a little rough on it.”
In 1984, Sen. Ted Kennedy sold the boat to the Bilezikian family, founder of the Christmas Tree Shops (subsequently sold to Bed Bath and Beyond). Cape Cod yachtsman and owner of Howard Boats Peter Eastman bought it in 2015.
So, how did Gibbs get interested?
“He read in the Tulsa World about the boat being sold at auction,” said Williams. “I really had no idea that he was interested. I just did a little research on it for him. Then, we got the call that he had bought it.”
There is a famous video of Jackie Kennedy and astronaut John Glenn tandem skiing behind the boat.
“I don’t think you’ll see anyone skiing behind it up here, although I’m sure it is in good enough condition, but that’s up to Eddy,” said Davidson. “It will have a special home.”
Before the boat is moved into its new lobby home, it will make an appearance at the Tulsa Boat, Sport & Travel Show Jan. 29 to Feb. 4.
“That will be the first public appearance of the boat since it was brought to Oklahoma and then it’ll come back to its permanent home at Grand Lake,” said Davidson.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com