My Collection
Miscellaneous: What Could Have Been

by David Lewis, Sculpteur

There was magic in the air, President Kennedy was in office. I was 22 and full of ideas and hope for change. I remember him flying over our blue collar home, always three helicopters for security, and feeling so proud. Local tradesmen talked about working at the Compound and meeting him or Jackie and the kids. People were always talking about the Kennedys, and, by the way, you didn’t say anything bad about them in front of my mother!

Then an assassin’s bullet took it all away. For three days, there was no television other than talking about his death and funeral; the radio played a constant dirge. The country fell silent and mourned.

As the years rolled by, we watched John-John grow into an extraordinary young man who just happened to look like a Greek god. Echoes of past hopes and dreams began to reappear. I waited for him to make his political move. Then that terrible plane crash took it all away.

After the accident I sketched a scene of the President and little John-John in an intimate father and son moment. I showed it to a friend of mine who was friendly with Senator Kennedy. I suggested a bronze statue for the Kennedy Memorial. He took two copies, one for Caroling and one for the Senator. Six weeks passed, then I heard they thought it was a good idea, but Caroline had said, “to depict John Jr. as a little boy would detract from his memory.” The Senator suggested he be depicted as an adult.

My first reaction- the President never knew his son as an adult. Then the possibilities flooded in- creative, spiritual, mystical. It made so much sense.

My next sketch was the President and John Jr. walking together. The President barefoot, with his pants rolled up, shirt tails out, walking on the beach, his arm on his son’s shoulder. John, Jr., in Bermuda shorts, just a t-shirt, his head turned toward his dad, their eyes not quite meeting. Another six weeks- Caroline thought it was too intimate a moment. The Senator suggested they both be looking at the water.

“What Would Have Been” was conceived.

A prominent businessman was interested in the project and got me on the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting. Forty- five minutes after my pitch, I got a phone call. The Chamber was very enthusiastic, wanted to be involved and would do the fund raising.

The budget was set at $140,000 with $10,000 donors receiving a bronze maquette, which is an 18-inch miniature of the life-size statue. Six $10,000 donors stepped forward before the fund raising even started.

We approached the Kennedy Memorial Committee to see about placing the life size statue there. We were turned down. The chairman’s father had worked with Jackie designing the Memorial and there could be no changes.

After many meetings with business and civic committees, it was decided with a unanimous vote of the Town Council, to install the sculpture at the intersection of South Street and Ocean Street, overlooking the inner harbor.

Town Council meetings are held on Thursday nights, and are covered by local press. The following morning, the Associated Press had picked up the Cape Cod Times story and picture of my sketch. By that afternoon, three Boston TV stations interviewed me, and by Monday morning, I was on the Today Show.

The story and sketch of the President walking on the beach with his grown son set off vibrations, which went around the world and can still be felt today. The overwhelming majority of people embrace the spirituality and mystical ideas the image evoked. The next two weeks were a whirlwind. Reporters from across the country, Europe and Asia called for interviews. The Sunday edition of the New York Times featured an article on the image and its message.

The Cape Cod Times had a negative response. We found out later they only printed negative letters to the editor. They wrote and editorial calling it “tacky and odd.” They were told to be controversial to sell more papers.

Caroline, still grieving for her brother, came back to the Cape and a friend told her about the controversy. Everybody had an opinion. It was being talked about everywhere.
Not wanting her family to be hurt even more, she told us to “put the project in abeyance.”
My friend and I had agreed that the family’s feelings came first. It was the death knell for the statue.

Carolyn and the Senator asked the JFK Museum to put the bronze maquette on permanent display. It’s still there.