Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Marie Tippit dies.


Marie Tippit dies.  

She had COVID and other health issues.  The DMN article is a love note to the Warren Commission. 

Marie Frances Tippit, the widow of Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit, who was shot to death by Lee Harvey Oswald 45 minutes after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, died Tuesday. She was 92.


Tippit had been suffering from COVID-19 and other medical issues and died at a hospital near her home in Sulphur Springs, said Rick Janich, a retired Dallas police detective and family friend. The exact cause of death wasn’t immediately clear.


“She really was an ambassador for all the widows — I would call her the matriarch — of all the widows of fallen officers,” Janich said. “You and I have no idea what these ladies and gentlemen go through. They have a special bond. She was always the one who told them, ‘The way to survive this is baby steps. Think of your family. Survive with your family. You will never get over it, but you have to do the best you can for your family.’ ”


When it came to her husband’s death, Janich said, “She never did get over J.D.’s loss. She always told me that J.D. truly was the love of her life.”


So, it “meant the world to her,” Janich said, to learn, as she did in 2018, that she would be buried next to J.D. Tippit at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas.


“Her wish was simply to be buried next to her husband, and now she will be,” Janich said.

The youngest of her three children, Curtis Tippit, 62, said Tuesday night that his mother began showing symptoms of COVID-19 several weeks ago.


“She went from having a lung X-ray that said there was no pneumonia on a Wednesday to having pneumonia in both lungs on a Saturday. She also had congestive heart failure, which she’s had for a long time. With congestive heart failure, you’re going to have kidney issues. She was overwhelmed.”


Even so, “She was a true survivor,” her son said. “She survived all tragedies, and she did it with honor. She didn’t hold any bitterness toward Oswald or his family. She was a person who cared deeply for other people. She was a true warrior who was there with whatever people needed. She depended on God tremendously. She would tell you — that was the source for her strength.”


The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza issued a statement soon after Tippit’s death Tuesday afternoon. It read in part:


“Mrs. Tippit was a powerful example of how the pain and tragedy of Nov. 22, 1963, continues to impact individuals on a deeply personal level to the present day. We were honored to host the Tippit family for an emotional private tour of the museum many years ago and were touched by Mrs. Tippit’s kindness and poignant stoicism.


“We also remain grateful that the Tippit family joined us for a special public program to commemorate what would have been J.D. Tippit’s 90th birthday on Sept. 18, 2014. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the entire Tippit family at this time.”


Noted journalist Hugh Aynesworth, who covered the events of the Kennedy assassination as they unfolded in 1963, had known Tippit since her husband’s death.


“She was a very nice, kind, ladylike woman,” Aynesworth said, noting how much he admired Tippit for the way she mothered her children in the aftermath of a horrifying event. “She did so much to keep them pretty much straight.”


In a 2003 interview with The Dallas Morning News, Tippit recounted the pain of losing her husband at such a young age — he was 39 — and in a violent, high-profile crime.


She remembered how her son Curtis would sit by the window night after night, wondering when Daddy was coming home. It was small consolation to a 5-year-old that his father died doing a job he loved. And that his death at the hands of Oswald triggered a police manhunt that led to the capture of President Kennedy’s assassin.


“We lived at the end of the street,” she said in 2003. “Curtis would sit by the window for hours and watch for his daddy. And that was really difficult.”


The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald killed the president in Dealey Plaza and then, 45 minutes later, gunned down Officer Tippit at the corner of 10th Street and Patton Avenue in Oak Cliff — where a state historical marker now commemorates his death.


For years, the widow came to know it as far more than a street corner. She paid frequent visits to the spot where Oswald killed her husband with four shots from a handgun.


“It’s such a sadness,” she said in 2003. “A sadness to know that I wasn’t there, and even if I had been, I couldn’t have done anything for him anyway. It severed his main artery. Nobody could have done anything.”


As the years went by, she felt an escalating anger — at conspiracy theorists, the most extreme of whom went as far as to speculate that her husband was involved in a sinister plot.


She focused instead, she said, on the 40,000 letters she received, including more than $600,000 in donations from around the world. She even got a letter and an autographed picture from the president’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, expressing sorrow for the bond they shared.


The president’s brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, called her and all but apologized for the trip to Texas. He told her, she said, that if his brother had not come to Dallas, her husband would still be alive.


“I said, ‘But you know, they were both doing their jobs. They got killed doing their jobs.’ He was being the president, and J.D. was being the policeman he was supposed to be.”


In that regard, she said, she remained forever proud that her husband — the diligent cop to the end — had offered the strongest possible evidence linking Oswald to what some would call the crime of the century.


Witnesses described seeing the patrolman stop to question Oswald just before 1:15 p.m. They say Oswald fired four shots at the officer with a handgun, the last striking him in the temple.


“Once the hypothesis is admitted that Oswald killed Patrolman J.D. Tippit,” wrote David W. Belin, assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, “there can be no doubt that the overall evidence shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of John F. Kennedy.”


In recalling her late husband, the widow remembered a man so different from the sad-eyed, high-cheekboned officer whose public photographs seem so stark.


“I have a picture of him laughing, and that’s the way I remember him,” she said. “When he came home, he was always playing with the kids and had everyone laughing.”


Marie Gasway grew up in Red River County, near Clarksville. She and J.D. Tippit — whose legal first name was simply that, J.D. — lived in the same rural area. When he returned home after serving in the 82nd Airborne Division as a paratrooper during World War II, Miss Gasway decided it was time to act. So, she asked him to church.


“What did I not like about him!” she said with a girlish laugh. “He was considerate, always happy and smiling. He was always doing something for someone else. I just fell madly in love. So, we got married and moved to Dallas.”


The date was Dec. 26, 1946. She was 18; he was 22.


The newly married J.D. Tippit worked for Sears, then Dearborn Stove Co. He even tried farming near Clarksville. A cotton crop gone bad and a cow drowning in a stock tank soured him to the point that he returned to Dallas to apply for a Police Department job.


Tippit joined the force in 1952, shrugging at the danger it promised. “I tried to talk him out of it and did — once,” she said. “That lasted about a month. But obviously, that’s what he wanted to do. So, I said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, I’m behind you 100 percent. I just want you to do what you’re happy with.’ "


Long before meeting Oswald, Officer Tippit stared death in the face. Once, a suspect’s gun failed to fire. Another time, he was stabbed in the knee with a knife. His wife loved the therapy recommended by the doctor — dancing. So, the couple made regular visits to a Dallas dance club, where they lovingly embraced to the tune of Bob Wills’ “Faded Love.”


They had three children — Charles Allan, born in 1950; Brenda, born in 1953; and Curtis, born in 1958. Charles Allan died of cancer on May 22, 2014, at age 64.


Years after Officer Tippit’s death, Marie married Dallas Police Lt. Harry Thomas, her husband from 1967 to 1982. Thomas died of cancer. She later married a third time, to Carl Flinner. The marriage ended in divorce.


On the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, Tippit made breakfast for her husband, who routinely left the house no later than 6:15 a.m. She, too, had a hectic schedule. To make extra money, she was baby-sitting a boy during the day and other children during the evening. Later that morning, she received a call from the nurse at Allan’s school, telling her he was vomiting and needed to come home. So, he was there when his dad came home for lunch one last time.


“I made J.D. a sandwich, and he had some fried potatoes with it,” she said. Officer Tippit left to return to duty, while his wife and oldest son turned on the television in hopes of hearing details about the visit of the president, for whom both the Tippits had voted. What they heard instead was the news of his death.


“When I heard about the president, it just blows your mind,” she said. “You think, ‘This cannot be happening.’ ”


Within an hour, the news got worse. Officer Tippit’s sister, Christine Christopher, called to ask, “Have you heard from J.D.? Do you know if he’s all right?”


“Why?” his wife asked, her startled tone followed by Christopher’s admission that she had heard a news report about an Officer Tippit being shot in Oak Cliff, possibly by the same man who murdered the president.


“So, I called the station,” the widow said. “There was so much confusion going on. But they told me he was dead. I just freaked out. I couldn’t believe this was happening. ‘Here the president and now my husband! You’ve got to be wrong!’ It was total devastation.”


In the 57 years since that awful day, “You keep on going because you have to,” she said. “You say your prayers and you feed your children and you read your Bible and you live one day at a time, so it gets to the point where you can live a single day without crying. I don’t see anything wrong with people crying.”


She said she and her children often wondered what may have prompted Officer Tippit to stop Oswald. After a description of the suspect in the president’s murder had been released on police radio, Officer Tippit was assigned to patrol central Oak Cliff. Most officers had been dispatched to the downtown area. Investigators said Oswald was wearing a zipped-up jacket, which concealed a handgun, and had to be sweating. It was 68 degrees.


“That’s just the kind of thing that would have gotten J.D.’s attention,” his widow said.


Within three minutes of the president’s shooting, Oswald had left the Texas School Book Depository, where he was employed.


About 18 minutes before Officer Tippit’s slaying, Oswald returned to his Oak Cliff rooming house at 1026 N. Beckley Ave., where housekeeper Earlene Roberts said he walked in hurriedly and left about three minutes later without speaking. He left a holster on his bed, its gun missing.


A witness to the Tippit slaying, Helen Markham, “saw exactly what happened,” said Marie Tippit.


Markham and other witnesses identified Oswald in a lineup.


“Markham told me that J.D. stopped him, and Oswald walked over and put his hands on the side of the car,” Tippit’s widow said. “He looked in the window and spoke with J.D., who got out of the car. When J.D. was even with the front wheel of his car is, she said, when Oswald shot him.”


Dale K. Myers, author of With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit, interviewed multiple witnesses to the shooting. Some saw Oswald walking east; others saw him walking west. Myers speculates that Oswald turned abruptly when he saw the patrol car, which would have attracted the officer’s attention. He also dismisses any suggestion that Tippit was part of a conspiracy.


“It’s totally ludicrous,” Myers once told The News. “I talked to a great many friends and family members, all of whom say it was totally foreign to J.D.’s personality to be involved in anything like that. In other words, his character would not have permitted such a thing. And B, he had no time to get involved in anything like that. In addition to being the married father of three children, he was working three jobs at the time he was killed.”


In the wake of her husband’s death, paying the bills became his widow’s immediate concern. Soon, however, the money poured in. The largest single donation came from Abraham Zapruder, who contributed the initial payment of $25,000 he received from Life magazine for his shocking 8mm movie of the assassination.


A $330,000 police trust fund helped pay the college expenses of Officer Tippit’s children. But nothing could take away the hurt from their mom.


She says police told her that her husband was a hero, that Oswald might have escaped had he not had the instinct to stop him.


“Because Oswald killed J.D., he was captured,” she says. Thirty-six minutes after her husband’s murder, Oswald was arrested in the Texas Theatre, where he came close to killing another officer.


The widow said she never felt bitterness for Oswald, just overwhelming sadness at having “to live every day without my husband. I had so many people tell me he was a very cautious officer. And yet he stopped Oswald. … I’m sure there was some real suspicion on his part or he never would have stopped him.”


She said she also felt no bitterness for Oswald’s widow, Marina Porter, who, like Officer Tippit’s widow, chose to remain in the Dallas area.


“I never met her,” Tippit said. “But you know, my heart kind of goes out to her. She’s had a lot to live with all these years. And her kids, too. I’m sure they’ve had a rough time.”


She said that, in the end, she’d learned a valuable lesson from her fallen hero.


“To be loved,” she said. “I was privileged to have been married to J.D. for 17 years. He was a good husband and a good father. And I knew I was loved. You know, that is the most important thing in your life. To be loved. And to be able to express that love to others. And that’s what J.D. was for me.”


Tippit is survived by her son and daughter, 11 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Curtis Tippit said those wishing to remember his mom should donate to Dallas’ Assist the Officer Foundation. The family expects to announce funeral arrangements soon.


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