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Anthony Violi remembers John, Jackie Kennedy

October 21, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

STEUBENVILLE - Anthony Violi, city resident and former Steubenville High School band director, said he's had one hero in life - John F. Kennedy.

Violi, who served in the European Theater during World War II, said he admired Kennedy for his service during the war, particularly after the future president was gravely injured during an incident on the PT boat he commanded.

"As time went on, he became my hero," said Violi, adding he also followed Kennedy's political career after the war.

Article Photos

KENNEDY MEMORIES — Former Steubenville High School band director Anthony Violi holds a facsimile of the White House marking the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, as well as a photo of Kennedy riding in a motorcade with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy. Violi directed the band when it represented Ohio during the inauguration parade on Jan. 19, 1961. Violi said he plans to attend the lecture by former Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill when he speaks about his book, “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” written with journalist Lisa McCubbin.
-- Mark J. Miller

Little did he know their paths would one day cross in earnest, as the Steubenville band was chosen to represent the state of Ohio during Kennedy's inauguration parade on Jan. 19, 1961, in Washington, D.C.

"The marching band got to play in the inauguration," said Violi, adding it was a great honor. "They picked one band from every state to march in the parade. I got to be a little closer to him. When he was killed - I was really affected by that."

Violi said he would be attending the lecture by former Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill when he comes to Steubenville to speak about his book, "Mrs. Kennedy and Me," written with journalist Lisa McCubbin. Hill and McCubbin will be the featured speakers at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 when the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Lecture Series opens in the Steubenville High School auditorium.

Fact Box

FYI:

-- Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill will speak about his book, "Mrs. Kennedy and Me," with journalist Lisa McCubbin at, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 when the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Lecture Series opens in the Steubenville High School auditorium.

Hill will always be remembered as the Secret Service agent who ran after the presidential limousine in order to shield the first lady from gun shots during the president's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. His book was published in April and immediately became a No. 1 best seller on the New York Times best seller list.

Violi said his memories of attending the inauguration were captured in a newspaper article in the Martins Ferry Times Leader dated Jan. 24, 1961, under a section of the newspaper titled Editor's Notebook: "There were three things in the long, inaugural parade that really took the eye of President Kennedy," reads the log. "The first was the replica of the PT boat similar to the one he commanded in the war. The second was the buffalo ridden in the parade by an intrepid soul. He even called him back to the presidential box for a better view. And the third was Steubenville High School's shapely drum majorette, who was really moving everything, including her baton, as she led the musicians up Pennsylvania Avenue. President Kennedy's eyes followed her out of sight, and how the band failed to win one of the prizes is beyond me."

Violi said later he learned that Kennedy had an eye for the ladies, but at the time he was more appreciative of the honor bestowed upon him and the Steubenville Marching Band. He also said some political strings might have been attached to the band's performance, as Steubenville was known as a big Democratic area at the time.

"I called (the late Wayne L. Hayes, Democratic U.S. Congressman from Ohio's 18th district) , and he was from Ohio, so that might have had something to do with it.

"Kennedy was in the viewing stand," said Violi, adding the band was playing "Beautiful Ohio" as it passed the president's view. "I saluted him as we passed by. I thought it was appropriate. There were also some other politicians from this area there, and they applauded as we passed."

The weather was brutally cold in Washington that day, but Violi said there was no way his band was going to miss its big moment.

"We had a well-disciplined band," he said, adding some bands dropped out because of the inclement weather. "We made the parade. We didn't drop out, like some bands did."

Violi said the day he learned of Kennedy's death was one he would never forget.

"I was leading band practice at the school," he said. "Someone came down and said that Kennedy had been killed. We all just stopped right there. I was crying, and all the students were crying, too. We all had that connection to Kennedy.

"(The band) always had a moment of silence in (Kennedy's) honor after that," Violi continued. "We had a really great band in those days."

Tickets for the event are available at the Herald-Star newspaper and at the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce office at 630 Market St., and reserved seating tickets are $20, while general admission seats are $15.

Those interested in purchasing a VIP ticket should contact the chamber offices at (740) 282-6226, or the Herald-Star, at (740) 283-4711.

Copies of "Mrs. Kennedy and Me" can be purchased at the Herald-Star office, 401 Herald Square, for $25. A coupon worth $5 off on a book purchase is available in editions of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. The coupon expires Nov. 1. Hill and McCubbin will sign copies of the book following the lecture.

Partners and co-sponsors of the lecture series include the chamber; the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times; Eastern Gateway Community College; the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast; Apollo Pro Cleaning; Piergallini Catering and Steubenville City Schools.

(Miller can be contacted at mmiller@heraldstaronline.com.)

 
 

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