REMEMBERING JFK: West Palm Beach man recalls President John F. Kennedy at last mass at St. Ann's

Last mass was just 5 days before his assassination

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - Just five days before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, he was in Palm Beach County where he ducked inside a cramped St. Ann's church for what would be his last mass.

It has been widely known that the Kennedy's often attended mass in Palm Beach at St. Edward's.

What few people realize, the president's final church service was actually in Downtown West Palm Beach at St. Ann's.
    
Just one photo remains of a day few parishioners remember first-hand.It was a moment that lives with Bill Davis every day.

The 67-year-old West Palm Beach native was 17-years-old at the time.

"Father did something that he never did before, he said, 'I see we have a distinguished visitor here today," said Davis.

Without hesitation, Davis turned around and in the very back row of the church sat President Kennedy.

"He wasn't the president of the United States at that moment. To us, he was a member of our congregation and he was a member of our flock," said Davis.
    
Surrounded by Secret Service, Davis managed to turn around and catch a glimpse of JFK. It was a common sight at St. Edward's in Palm Beach, but not at the church Davis said was for ordinary folks or the common man.

"He was a very devote, religious man. But this was his last mass of his life was in this building. That's the gravity of it," said Davis.

For one hour on a Sunday morning in 1963, Davis and the rest of the parish folded their hands and bowed their heads alongside the U.S. Commander and Chief in prayer.

"No one ever thought anything but we hoped we'd see him again. It was gee, maybe he'll come again and we'll see him again," said Davis.

President Kennedy walked out of St. Ann's on November 17, 1963.

One photo is thought to remain of the historic visit.

It would be his last mass.

Just five days later, President Kennedy was shot and killed.

"I don't think most of when he was here for mass. I think of most when I was here praying for his soul and realizing we'd never see him again," said Davis.

In less than a week, Davis and his church went from overwhelming joy to utter sorrow.

To this day, why President Kennedy attended Saint Ann's instead of his usual church remains a mystery to Davis.

"It was almost like fate. He was here," said Davis.
    
And then, he was gone.

"Proud wouldn't be the word," said Davis. "I'm just honored that he came here for the service and I'm historically grateful that we got to have him here as our president before he left this world."

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