Two eyewitnesses reunite once a year on anniversary of Kennedy’s death
By SARAH MERVOSH
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS/Nov. 23, 2012
It was the two old men everyone gravitated toward. The tourists, the filmmakers, the conspiracy theorists. They all crowded around the men near the grassy knoll, two people who witnessed history.
John Templin sat quietly in a folding chair. After a dozen heart procedures, he let his friend of more than 50 years do most of the talking. Ernest Brandt chatted zealously about what he'd seen the day President John F. Kennedy died. He waved around a blurry photo - proof he'd been there.
On the 49th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination Thursday, these two old friends embarked on their annual tradition of meeting downtown at Dealey Plaza. They fielded questions and reminisced near the curb where they'd stood together on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963.
The men had known each other only a few years when they watched the event that would bond them for the rest of their lives. At the time, Brandt was a freight line salesman; Templin was his customer. After a work lunch at a barbecue joint, they made a spur-of-the-moment decision to watch the Kennedy motorcade.
They were standing within feet of the president when the first shot was fired. Brandt ran for cover under a nearby tree. Templin stayed and saw the shot that hit Kennedy's head.
"It looked like he'd been hit with a left hook to the jaw," said Templin, 74.
For years, he didn't tell anyone but his wife that he'd been a witness, and over time the friends lost touch with each other. But in 1993, on the 30th anniversary, they went to the grassy knoll for what became an annual tradition. When they meet there each Nov. 22, it's the only day of the year the men see each other.
They recall anniversaries years ago when they'd run into other eyewitnesses. On Thursday, a placard resting against Templin's folding chair read: "Will all JFK witnesses meet two more here." But no others joined them.
"There's not many of us left," Brandt said.
So all the visitors Tuesday focused their cameras on the two friends as Brandt, wearing the same fedora he'd worn the day Kennedy died, commanded attention with his lively stories. He even signed some autographs.
"It makes me feel like I'm Michael Jackson," the 86-year-old said.
Be it old age or a national holiday, nothing was going to stop these two from being there. No matter that Templin's wife had gone to East Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving without him. Never mind the cane he gripped.
"We come every year, Thanksgiving or not. I don't care if they had it at midnight, we'd be here," Brandt proclaimed.