Thursday, April 19, 2012

James W Sibert dies

Last surviving FBI agent at JFK autopsy dies in Fort Myers

He was the last surviving FBI agent to attend the autopsy of President John F. Kennedy.
But, as family and friends say, James Sibert was much more than that. A husband, father and decorated World War II veteran, Sibert died April 6 in Fort Myers of complications following a hospital fall.

Sibert was 93, and a memorial service Saturday will remember his life. It starts at 10:30 a.m. and will be at Cypress Lake United Methodist Church, 8570 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers.

"I do believe he will have a place in history," said his son Bob Sibert, a former FBI agent now working as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C.

A junior in high school when Kennedy was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963, Bob Sibert said he didn't realize the significance of his father's role in the autopsy at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., until later, "when dad began getting solicited by authors writing books about the assassination."

"There were a lot of people writing wild conspiracy stories," he explained. "He was rather guarded, and referred them to the FBI Press Office. But once he retired and was granted permission to share his observations, he was very concerned that they would not be spun or used to advance some theory he didn't believe to be true."

James Sibert was an Indianapolis native who had lived in the Fort Myers area since his 1972 retirement from the bureau, As a World War II B-24 bomber pilot and Squadron Commander flying 32 missions, he was awarded the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He became an FBI agent and received notoriety because he attended JFK's autopsy.

Observations Sibert made during the autopsy included the his statement in many published interviews that he "didn't buy the single bullet theory," which was key to the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman at Dealey Plaza that fateful day.

"I've heard him say that," Bob Sibert said. "As an FBI agent, you're trained when you go to anything like this to observe and take detailed notes. The agents were not doctors. And at that time, the FBI had no jurisdiction in the assassination of a president. At the end, he was denying interviews. He said 'there's nothing left to say.'"

The second agent observing the autopsy that day was Francis O'Neill, who died in Boston in 2009 at age 85.

A group of his fellow retired FBI agents plans to attend Saturday's memorial service. Sibert was active in the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. Headquartered in Virginia, the local group's territory extends from Port Charlotte to Marco Island and attracts as many as 40 members.

Retired agent Paul Nolan of Fort Myers, who moved his family 29 times during his FBI career, met Sibert during a local meeting in the late 1990s.

"In the FBI world," he reports, "there is more of a family relationship because of the work we do. It's confidential, so you can't share details of your work around the dinner table at home. Even after retirement, agents still regard themselves as agents.

"When one of our members or spouses passed, he had a long written outline of the tasks that needed to be performed," Nolan said of James Sibert. "He'd visit with the families, help prepare insurance forms, visit with bankers and stockbrokers, and ensure that widows were protected" when approached by strangers offering to help with their financial issues.

Although Sibert's name is preserved in the FBI's report "Autopsy of Body of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy" and in countless books, articles, and blogs, he preferred that his legacy be that of a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, his son said.

Soloist Rob Liddle will sing the hymn "My Father's Chair" at Saturday's celebration of life memorial service, remembering how Sibert could be found at every 11 a.m. Sunday service in pew number 6, on the corner.

The retired FBI agent was "a true gentleman, humble, articulate, and always in a suit at church," Liddle says. "He wouldn't really talk about the Kennedy autopsy other than to say he was there."

Even though Sibert had suffered health problems recently, Liddle says, "he never complained. He cared more about what's going on with you than what's going on with him."

The week of his death, four retired veterans lined up in his Hope Hospice room to give him a final salute.

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