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Wally Watkins Drives JFK in Pear Blossom Parade

A Medford businessman, Wally Watkins, had planned to go fishing with his son on April 23, 1960, the first day of fishing season, but the Pear Blossom Parade interfered.

The parade had asked presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to be the grand marshal and expected Watkins to drive Kennedy in the parade in Watkins’ luxurious, cream-colored 1959 Lincoln Continental Mark III convertible. Watkins agreed to do it even though the fishing trip was a family tradition. 

Watkins picked up Kennedy at the airport and they had a great time visiting before the parade.  Upon finding out Watkins had planned to go fishing that day, Kennedy told him, “I’ll make it up to you, don’t worry.”  True to his word, President-elect Kennedy sent Watkins a letter inviting him to the inauguration, but Watkins didn’t attend.

Watkins especially regretted that decision when Kennedy was assassinated during his first term as President.  As a remembrance, the Kennedy family sent him a bust of John Kennedy.

Watkins said it always bothered him that Kennedy was again riding in a Lincoln Continental convertible when he was assassinated. 


Sources:  Mac Cracken, Harry. "My Kennedy Polaroids: Instant History." techland.time.com. TIME.com, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 2 May 2016. ; Fattig, Paul. "Medford man who drove for JFK recalls time together - News ." mailtribune.org. N.p., 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 1 May 2016. www.mailtribune.com/article/20131122/NEWS/311220334Mail Tribune;  Ibid. Fattig, Paul. "Kennedy ran, Medford man drove." 16 Feb. 2011. Web. 3 May 2016. .

Luana (Loffer) Corbin graduated from Southern Oregon College, majoring in Elementary Education.  The summer after graduation she was hired to teach at Ruch Elementary, where she taught for 32 years. After retiring, Corbin worked for Lifetouch School Photography and then returned to Ruch as an aide helping with reading instruction and at the library.  More recently, she has volunteered at South Medford High.