This afternoon, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Barrington resident and Barrington High School alumna Joyce Taillon presented the high school with never-before-seen photographs of JFK’s 1960 campaign visit to BHS.
The photos, which Joyce found at her parents’ Barrington home in the spring of 2012, are now a permanent part of Barrington High School’s Future Presidents exhibit. First unveiled in October of 2011, the exhibit commemorates the visits of both JFK in 1960, and Barack Obama in 2006–pictured side by side.
The photo collection includes eight color Polaroids, several of which feature Joyce’s late brother, Rusty Anderson, also a BHS alumnus, sporting pro-Kennedy buttons and a matching bowler hat. There are also four larger black-and-white photographs featuring then-Senator and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, which appear to have been taken by a member of the press. The photographer of the black-and-white images remains unknown.
When Joyce discovered the photos at her parents’ Barrington home in the spring of 2012, she wasn’t sure what she should do with them. She made some copies and some scans, but then the photos sat in an album for over a year. It wasn’t until she read a Quintessential Barrington magazine article written by Dr. Tom Leonard, superintendent of Barrington 220 schools, which mentioned JFK’s October 25, 1960 campaign stop in Barrington, that she began to think of donating them to Barrington High School.
When she read a second article on the topic, Joyce knew what she had to do.
“There was an article on October 25th about Senator Kennedy’s campaign swing through the northwest suburbs,” Joyce says. “It was on that morning that I thought ‘Okay, this is the day. I’m contacting Dr. Leonard and offering the photos.'”
Dr. Leonard was stunned to receive Joyce’s e-mail.
“I got this e-mail, and it was “You know, I’ve got these pictures, and I read your magazine article, and these pictures are of that day,” Dr. Leonard says. “I think I responded to [her] e-mail within about 15 minutes. She said ‘I’d like to show them to you and maybe give them to the school district,’ and I’m thinking how soon can we get you here? For Barrington, Kennedy coming here was a big moment in time.”
From that moment, Joyce knew that she had found the right home for the historic documents. “Because my brother and I are graduates of Barrington High School, and because other family members have attended here as well, I feel that this is absolutely the right place for these photos to be.”
Plans came together quickly for today’s event. Its timing, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, was purely coincidental and was due largely to the Taillon family’s ability to be present for the photos’ unveiling. In addition to her two granddaughters, Barrington 220 students Audrey and Gigi Taillon, Joyce was accompanied by her husband Dennis, whom she met in 1978 at the Barrington Jewel, along with her stepson Paul, a BHS alumnus and professor of history at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
Barrington High School principal Steve McWilliams was also present for the event. “This is a great example of how we can maintain strong connections with our community, but also celebrate the really, really rich history of Barrington High School,” Steve says. “It’s important for us to look back and see how the fabric of our current students connects with our past and future students.”
BHS photography teacher Jeffrey Dionesotes brought his students to view the unveiling. Caroline Reynolds, a BHS senior, was among those who attended. “I think it’s amazing that our photo teacher brought us to see these photographs being unveiled,” Caroline says. “It’s so neat to see these, and to have this piece of history here at our high school.”
The photos have given Joyce an opportunity to reflect on her late brother, Rusty, and his early passion for politics. “This experience has brought back some really happy memories of my brother,” Joyce says. “My family and my parents were longtime Republicans. But my brother Rusty followed his beliefs, his instincts, and my parents supported him. He was just 13, and he couldn’t have come down to the rally, or have gotten to the Barrington train station, without their support.”
Joyce is glad her parents embraced Rusty’s divergent political views. “I really credit my parents for allowing him to come to the rally, and to campaign for John F. Kennedy,” she says. “Rusty would be so thrilled. He would be feeling so glad about all of this.”
Barrington resident Joanne Barrett identified her father, William Pays, in the foreground of one of the black-and-white photographs. “He was a lifelong Democrat, and the head of the Democratic party in Barrington.” Joanne, who was in her thirties at the time, did not attend the rally for Senator Kennedy. She is happy to have this visual reminder of her father’s involvement in the event.
Joyce is pleased that the photographs are proving meaningful to so many individuals. “I’m just so glad that the images will be on display for others to see. They were in my dad’s closet for 45 years–I’m so thankful that they are seeing light of day.”
Her decision to donate the photos to BHS is a gift to the wider Barrington community as well. “I feel so fortunate that the photos will be included in this Future Presidents exhibit, because they will be preserved, and they will be on view for current and future students along with members of the community.”