Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Eduardo Martinez
As the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of the United States’ most significant Presidents, John F. Kennedy, approaches, people may be surprised to find that Oak Hill Cemetery houses one of the more stimulating JFK relics to be found in Central Illinois.
The Statue is located on the far east side of the cemetery. The eight foot, white carrara marble statue stands tall beside shrubbery and an array of gravestones. Approaching the statue frontside reveals a simple engraving with the late president’s name. The elevating steps on the statue secludes the memorial from the others around the site. The seriousness in JFK’s facial expression gives a meditative and thought provoking atmosphere.
Citizens, City officials and historians recall what little is known about the mysterious origin of the statute, which traveled from Italy to Kansas before arriving at Oak Hill.
Extensive attempts to contact the Christian County Historical Society were made, but the society has yet to contact back. Many people in the Taylorville area were interviewed, but very little knew very much.
William Newberry, Superintendent of Oak Hill Cemetery, said he knew little about the origin of the statue, only that the memorial was commissioned in 1963.
Wilda Cooper, a local genealogist, added that the funds used to commission the memorial were from citizens in the Taylorville area.
Cooper, who attended the erection of the memorial, said it was “quite an affair” with the presence of dignitaries.
While locals may not have much information on the statue, an article from a 1964 edition of the Fort Scott Tribune explains that the memorial was sculpted by the Bruno Tavarelli Marble Co. of Carrara, Italy after being forwarded a request from Bruce Marble and Granite Works in Fort Scott, Kansas.
According to Taylorville City Council minutes, an account for the statue was created shortly prior to a January 6, 1964 meeting. A December 21 account states that final payment to the Fort Scott company was made out of donated funds.
Breeze-Courier archives from 1964 show…Robert Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s brother played a role in the commission of the statue. Robert sent a letter to the City of Taylorville requesting a picture be used as a pattern in the making of the face on the memorial statue, accompanying the letter was the photograph chosen.
While this memorial largely remains a mystery to people in the Taylorville area, it is still a remembrance of a president who many people admired. According to William Newberry, the impact of the memorial is seen by the graves around it.
“In that area, all the graves were sold out. Most of the people who were buried there probably admired him and were Democrats,” said Newberry.