Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Secret Service Agent Jack Walsh dies

From The Boston Globe:

Jack Walsh was a relatively new Secret Service agent when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and he soon was assigned to protect Jacqueline Kennedy and her two young children, Caroline and John Jr.
“Those were difficult times,’’ said Jim Christian, a retired special agent in charge with the Secret Service. “The nation was in mourning, she was probably the most important person in the United States, and the country pretty much adopted the children.’’
The assignment brought Mr. Walsh more than the standard chores of missing his children’s birthdays so he could guard the children of America’s Camelot. As fascination with the Kennedys increased, writers sought him out to see if he would share secrets.
“We would get repeated calls from people writing the unauthorized Kennedy books. He wouldn’t take a call,’’ said Mr. Walsh’s son David, of Cincinnati. “Whatever happened behind the walls at the Kennedy compound, stayed behind those walls.’’
Mr. Walsh, who became agent in charge of protecting the late president’s children and was so well loved by the family that he was a pallbearer at the funeral of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died in his home of cancer Thursday. He was 79 and had lived in Milton for more than 40 years.
“Jack had one of the more difficult jobs in the Secret Service,’’ Christian said. “He had to keep Washington happy and that meant keeping the children safe, and it also meant keeping her happy. That was an enormous balancing act.’’
When the president’s widow lived in New York City, she “wanted to keep those children safe, but she also wanted them to have normal lives,’’ Christian said. “The desire was that the children and their friends would not see the agents, but the agents had the responsibility of not letting anything happen. With all the other protectees, you were right there. Here, you were trying to stay out of the way, sometimes on busy New York streets.’’
Mr. Walsh, he said, “did it all, and he did it well.’’
Despite efforts to fade into the scenery, Mr. Walsh occasionally showed up in books by and about the Kennedys, or on the Globe’s front page, as he did May 17, 1965. In a photo, John Kennedy Jr. runs joyously down a street in England as a smiling Mr. Walsh towers over him, keeping pace.
Sarah Bradford’s 2000 book, “America’s Queen,’’ quoted a letter Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wrote in 1967 about a trip to Ireland. She thought she was swimming alone on the coast when a current threatened to sweep her away.
“I was becoming exhausted, swallowing water and slipping past the spit of land, when I felt a great porpoise at my side,’’ she wrote. “It was Mr. Walsh. He set his shoulder against mine and together we made the spit.’’

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