Seattle man remembers private talks with Kennedy

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by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on November 22, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 22 at 12:22 PM

Jerry Hoeck encountered a lot of politicians in his day as a press secretary and campaign worker. But the day he met John F. Kennedy, things changed.

"He wasn't like most politicians. He wasn't totally enamored with himself," Hoeck remembers.

Hoeck, 92, started as a representative for the William Mackay Advertising Agency when he became press secretary for Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Jackson and Kennedy became friends in the U.S. Senate and Hoeck took a job on Kennedy's presidential campaign.

"I was all in for Kennedy at that point and wanted to work for him".

After Kennedy was elected, Jackson became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Hoeck became close with Kennedy. He describes Kennedy as one of the brightest minds he's ever seen.

"Jack was always ready for the wise crack or a gentle little smile," he remembers. "I never saw him angry."

Hoeck remembers personal conversations with Kennedy in Washington D.C. and says he never realized how bad Kennedy suffered from Addison's disease, a condition causing discoloration in the President's skin.

"And his back hurt all the time. He was never not in pain," said Hoeck. "I told him, 'How do you do all that traveling and stand before crowds with that big smile.’”

Hoeck was with President Kennedy on his trip to Seattle in 1961. But he regrets missing the president in 1963 during a visit to the Hanford Nuclear facility.

Three months later, the president was assassinated.

"I was so shook up." he said with a pause. "I’ll never be able to explain it."

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