On Nov. 22, 1963, ambulance driver Aubrey Rike and his assistant, Dennis "Peanuts" McGuire, just happened to be on a call at Parkland Memorial Hospital when President John F. Kennedy was brought in.
"They brought in a priest to do last rites, and there wasn't anybody in there but your dad, Peanuts, Mrs. Kennedy and the priest," recounts Aubrey's widow, Glenda, in a visit to StoryCorps with her son, Larry.
"Mrs. Kennedy took off her wedding ring and tried to put it on President Kennedy's finger, but it wouldn't go," Glenda continues. "So when [Aubrey] saw what she was trying to do, he helped her and she thanked him."
After the president was pronounced dead, Aubrey and McGuire were asked to get his body ready to leave the hospital. "They had brought in a casket and a hearse. Your daddy took Mrs. Kennedy's arm to help her get in the hearse, and the Secret Service knocked his arm down," Glenda says. "She told the agent, 'Leave the young man alone.' "
Aubrey was sad for Mrs. Kennedy, knowing "she was going to be alone, other than her two small children," Glenda says. "Sometimes he could talk about it day and night. And then other times, he couldn't. It was unbelievable that something like that happened, and he was part of it."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Time, now, for StoryCorps. Today, we mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination with the story of two men who were in the room when the president received last rites. Aubrey Rike and Dennis McGuire, known as Peanuts, were ambulance drivers in Dallas. On Nov. 22, 1963, they were on a call at Parkland Hospital when President Kennedy was brought in. Both men have passed away, but the wife and son of Aubrey Rike sat down to tell his story.
GLENDA RIKE: Your daddy and Peanuts was fixin' to go out the exit door, but the Secret Service told him not to leave. They were bringing in President Kennedy, and Mrs. Kennedy was following behind.
LARRY RIKE: And while they were working on the president in Trauma Room 1, Mrs. Kennedy was outside, right?
GLENDA RIKE: Yes. Your dad sat right across the hall from her. She asked him if he would give her a cigarette. Well, he had smoked his last one, but there were cigarette machines all over the place. So he went and got a pack, and handed her a cigarette. And when President Kennedy was pronounced dead, they asked your daddy and Peanuts to get his body ready to leave the hospital.
A priest came in to do last rites; and there wasn't anybody in the room but your dad, Peanuts, Mrs. Kennedy and the priest. Mrs. Kennedy took off her wedding ring and tried to put it on President Kennedy's finger, but it wouldn't go. So when he saw what she was trying to do, he helped her; and she thanked him.
They had brought in a casket and a hearse. Your daddy took Mrs. Kennedy's arm to help her get in the hearse, and the Secret Service knocked his arm down. But she told the agent: Leave the young man alone.
LARRY RIKE: What's your most vivid memory of that day?
GLENDA RIKE: I received a phone call from a CIA or FBI agent. And he said, we have your husband, and he hung up the phone. I didn't know what was going on till your dad picked me up from work; and then we were up almost all night, him telling me what all happened.
LARRY RIKE: As he got older, how do you think it affected him?
GLENDA RIKE: Sometimes, he could talk about it day and night; and then other times, he couldn't. He said he felt very sad for her, knowing - you know - she was alone, she was going to be alone other than her two, small children. I just - it was unbelievable that something like that happened, and he was part of it.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREENE: Taking us back to the day of Kennedy's assassination. That's Glenda Rike with her son, Larry, remembering ambulance driver Aubrey Rike; at StoryCorps in Dallas. Their interview will be archived with thousands of others at the Library of Congress, and you can get the podcast at NPR.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.