Topeka Man Remembers Working For President John F. Kennedy

By: Sarah Plake Email
By: Sarah Plake Email

TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- The whole nation gathered around TV screens to watch the shocking news surrounding President Kennedy's assassination unfold.

For one Topeka man, the news of JFK's death was even more unbelievable.

He told 13 News about his time as a cryptographer for the White House around the time the President was killed.

"It took you a while to cope with the idea that he was not coming back."

Tom Glotzbach had just finished a two-year tour with the U.S. Army as a cryptographer on November 19, 1963, and was sitting on his mother's couch in Topeka when Walter Cronkite broke the news of JFK's assassination.

"It made it unreal, the timing of it, because you'd known them as vibrant, active people, and all of a sudden he's gone."

Tom was 23 at the time and his duty was sending secure messages to the White House.

"It was pretty impressive for a young guy just out of school not too long and these are people making history and here you are rubbing elbows with them."

He never actually spoke to the president.

"You didn't socialize with them, you just did your job and that was it."

He did play a part in finding the Kennedy's dog however.

"I was taking new reports, something like that, over to the White House and Caroline and her cousin Maria Shriver were running up the path with their dog. The dog runs off into the bushes and they yell 'Mister would you help us find our dog?' How can you turn them down, right?"

Tom recalls the times he saw the Kennedy family, usually at Camp David, because the children could run around and play.

"He's Catholic, I'm Catholic, so at the Camp David we'd have Sunday morning mass and after mass he'd maybe stand around for a few minutes, 'hi, how are you,' but that was as far as it went."

The last time he saw the Kennedy family was about a month before the assassination. The President left an indelible impression on Tom.

"You had feelings for him that I don't know if I'd stayed on and worked with Lyndon Johnson it could've been the same or not."

Tom has books about JFK stacked up on his coffee table, and brought out a binder of his personal experiences titled "My Time In Camelot." He says he keeps the binder so that his grandchildren can have a personal perspective from the incident, more than what history textbooks would provide.

Tom wonders what the nation would have been like if the assassination never happened. He wonders if the Vietnam War would have ever happened, or how fast civil rights would have moved along or how the economy would be today.

50 years later, November 22, 1963 is still very much alive in Tom's mind and so is remembering what he describes as a "unique" family.

"it didn't seem real because when you'd be out in crowded places, people were so friendly. You didn't even think that anybody could do such a thing. It was kind of difficult."

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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