On 50th assassination anniversary, JFK gets a whimsical honor: a horse on Paragon Carousel

Just before the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death, a Hull woman is remembering the slain president with a whimsical gesture: Naming a horse for him on the town’s Paragon Carousel.

The restored horse (Patricia Abbate/Friends of the Paragon Carousel)

“He did so much for our country,’’ said Ruth O’Connell, who was 10 years old when Kennedy was assassinated. “This was a tangible way of honoring him and supporting the carousel at the same time.’’

In an effort to restore the carousel and mark its 85th birthday, the Friends of the Paragon Carousel have set up an adoption program. For $250, people can adopt a horse for a year and name it.

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O’Connell named her horse “Beloved Jack.’’ It’s a far cry from the ships, space centers, bridges, highways, and schools that have been named after the president in the past. It’s a small, personal gesture intended to simply provide kids — young and old — with joy.

“It’s a very powerful, beautiful horse,’’ said Marie Schleiff, president of the Friends of the Paragon Carousel. “When you see it, it’s like a symphony.’’

Many of the carousel horses are in desperate need of restoration due to their old age. Beloved Jack was one of those horses, said Schleiff. Jack sat on the outside ring of the Paragon and had about 30 years of damage, Schleiff said.

“He was white, cracked, with a broken leg,’’ recalled Schleiff. Without repair, Jack would not have made it another season, she said.

Schleiff was not sure if the restoration would be completed by the time of the assassination anniversary. To her surprise, Jack was ready a week ago. Now fully restored, Jack, a grey and white horse, shines with a saddle decorated in shades of orange, silver, and maroon.

“The horse is gorgeous,’’ said O’Connell. “It makes me happy.’’ The carousel is closed for the season now, but O’Connell plans to ride the horse in the spring and adopt him again.

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“It’s just fun,’’ she said. “Part of me never grew up. Everyone loves riding a carousel.’’

To date, 33 of the 66 horses have been painted and polished back to their original colors. The Paragon also has a program where people can adopt a horse for life. That type of adoption costs $10,000, said Schleiff.

The anniversary of Kennedy’s death is Friday. Schleiff said many people in the town of Hull feel a strong connection to Kennedy, remembering him visiting there when he was young.

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