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A valley girl remembers

November 22, 2013

A blurry photo taken in 1963 shows Debra (de tonnancourt) Mancini, in a red sweater, shaking the hand of John F. Kennedy. Submitted Photo.

WEST WARWICK— In light of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a West Warwick native remembers back to her encounter with the beloved president two months before he was killed.

Debra Mancini, formerly Debra de Tonnancour, was just 10 years old the day she shook hands with the president on Sept. 12, 1963 at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station.

“My grandparents both worked at Quonset Point,” she remembered. “Everybody was excited to go. They had passes and badges to get on the base. That’s why we went that day.”

She was joined by her whole family that day, she said — her grandmother Nettie Jacques, her father Eugene de Tonnancour and her brother Douglas, who was 7.

Debra remembered a large crowd standing behind a roped-off area, while Kennedy made his way towards his helicopter.

“While we were standing there my father said it’d be a great opportunity to meet the president; he was encouraging me,” she laughed. “He said it a couple times, and then when the president was heading towards the helicopter I made my decision.”

Darting underneath the ropes, Debra ran toward Kennedy before being intercepted by a Secret Service agent.

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