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What ever happened to Marie Frances Gasway Tippett, married to JD Tippett murdered by Oswald after he assasinated JF Kennedy?

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In January 1967, she married Dallas Police Lieutenant Harry Dean Thomas.

 

"I never learned anything when I was talking." Larry King

For the widow of Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit, the hardest weeks came just after the murder. Curtis, her youngest, would sit by the window night after night, wondering when Daddy was coming home.

It was small consolation to a 5-year-old boy that his father was killed doing a job he loved. Or that his death at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald led to the capture of President John F. Kennedy's apparent assassin.

"We lived at the end of the street," says the widow, Marie Flinner, giving her first extensive interview about the twin tragedies of Nov. 22, 1963. "Curtis would sit by the window for hours and watch for his daddy. And that was really difficult."

The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald killed the president in Dealey Plaza and then, 45 minutes later, gunned down Officer Tippit at the corner of Tenth Street and Patton Avenue in Oak Cliff. It's an intersection she visits often, most recently about a month ago.

"It's such a sadness," she says. "A sadness to know that I wasn't there, and even if I had been, I couldn't have done anything for him anyway. It severed his main artery. Nobody ... could have done anything."

For Mrs. Flinner, now 75, the anguish of that moment has lingered 40 years. She says no amount of time can take away the pain she feels for a man she loved. And for anyone who thinks she's "over it," well, she says, they never really knew J.D. Tippit.

The goodness of others helped temper the grief, but conspiracy theories ? the most outlandish of which suggest her husband was part of an assassination plot ? have left her isolated, frustrated and angry.

She continues to feel touched by the 40,000 letters she received, including more than $600,000 in donations from around the globe. She even got a letter and an autographed picture from Jacqueline Kennedy, expressing sorrow for the bond they shared. The president's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, called her and all but apologized for the trip to Texas.

She says he told her that if his brother had not come to Dallas, Officer Tippit would still be alive. "I said, 'But, you know, they were both doing their jobs. They got killed doing their jobs.' He was being the president, and J.D. was being the policeman he was supposed to be."

Key evidence

In being the policeman he was meant to be, Officer Tippit may have provided the strongest piece of evidence linking Oswald to the president's murder.

Witnesses described seeing the patrolman stop to question Oswald just before 1:15 p.m. They say he then fired four shots at the officer, the last striking him in the temple.

"Once the hypothesis is admitted that Oswald killed Patrolman J.D. Tippit," wrote David W. Belin, assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, "there can be no doubt that the overall evidence shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of John F. Kennedy."

Assassination cynics call that "the official story." It's also the only story Marie Flinner believes.

"The conspiracy stuff was so untrue, so totally unfounded," she says. "That was really difficult for me. Everyone that knew J.D. knew better. That part really made me angry."

Her husband, she says, was a good man, a good father and a good police officer for whom certificates of merit were commonplace. He was also no stranger to putting his life on the line.

"If you're an average person, a good person, well, I guess that isn't newsworthy," she says. "There's got to be something wrong with somebody. They got to make something bad or wrong out of everything. And that really makes me angry. But we in the family know it's all total lies."

In recalling her late husband, Mrs. Flinner remembers a man so different from the sad-eyed, high-cheekboned officer whose public photographs seem so stark. "I have a picture of him laughing, and that's the way I remember him," she says. "When he came home, he was always playing with the kids and had everyone laughing."

And she smiles at the memory of a family laughing and playing together, before the word "Oswald" entered their lives.

'Madly in love'

Marie Gasway grew up in Red River County, near Clarksville. She and J.D. Tippit lived in the same rural area. When he returned home after serving in the 82nd Airborne Division as a paratrooper during World War II, Miss Gasway decided it was time to act. So she asked him to church.

"What did I not like about him!" she says with a girlish laugh. "He was considerate, always happy and smiling. He was always doing something for someone else. I just fell madly in love. So we got married and moved to Dallas."

The date was Dec. 26, 1946. She was 18; he was 22. For a while, they lived with Mr. Tippit's sister and her husband, "before we were able to find a place of our own," says Mrs. Flinner. "It was a very bonding time. J.D. had a loving, close-knit family."

He had two sisters and four brothers, with whom Mrs. Flinner remains close. "I'm still a member of the family and always will be," she says. "It's just wonderful to have married into that family." Officer Tippit's father is still alive, living in a nursing home, where he turned 101 in January.

The newly married J.D. Tippit worked for Sears, then Dearborn Stove Co. He even tried farming near Clarksville. A cotton crop gone bad and a cow drowning in a stock tank soured him to the point that he returned to Dallas to apply for a Police Department job.

"J.D. was always helping somebody else," she says. "His whole family is like that."

As an example of the way her husband was respected for his goodness, she remembers a black woman who came to the door of the church in the hours before his funeral. Because it was the Jim Crow era of 1963, police officers came to the widow's door to get permission for the woman to view the body.

"And I said, 'By all means, let her in.' I said, 'He has done something good for her and her family. She just wants to show her respects,' " says Mrs. Flinner.

Mr. Tippit joined the force in 1952, shrugging at the danger it promised.

"I tried to talk him out of it and did ? once," she says. "That lasted about a month. But obviously, that's what he wanted to do. So I said, 'If that's what you want to do, I'm behind you 100 percent. I just want you to do what you're happy with.' "

Long before meeting Oswald, Officer Tippit stared death in the face. Once, a suspect's gun failed to fire. Another time, he was stabbed in the knee with a knife. His wife loved the therapy recommended by the doctor ? dancing. So the couple made regular visits to a Dallas dance club, where they lovingly embraced while dancing to Bob Wills' "Faded Love."

They had three children ? Charles Allan, born in 1950; Brenda, born in 1953; and Curtis, born in 1958.

Behind the couple's house was a creek where Officer Tippit and Allan played for hours, once stretching a cable from one tree to another, allowing them to swing over the water.

"He built a tree house with the kids and played football with them. He was so close to those kids, and Brenda became Daddy's little girl. I breast-fed her but couldn't put her to sleep. So I'd give her to him, and he'd put her to sleep," she says, chuckling at the memory. "He loved those kids so much."

Tragic day

On the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, Mrs. Tippit made breakfast for her husband, who routinely left the house no later than 6:15 a.m. She, too, had a hectic schedule. To make extra money, she was baby-sitting a boy during the day and other children during the evening.

Later that morning, she received a call from the nurse at Allan's school, telling her he was vomiting and needed to come home. So he was there when his dad came home for lunch one last time.

"I made J.D. a sandwich, and he had some fried potatoes with it," she says. Officer Tippit left to return to duty, while his wife and oldest son turned on the television in hopes of hearing details about the visit of the president, for whom both the Tippits had voted.

What they heard instead was the news of his death.

"When I heard about the president, it just blows your mind," she says. "You think, 'This cannot be happening.' "

Within an hour, the news got worse. Officer Tippit's sister, Christine Christopher, called to ask, "Have you heard from J.D.? Do you know if he's all right?"

"Why?" his wife asked, her startled tone followed by Ms. Christopher's admission that she had heard a news report about an Officer Tippit being shot in Oak Cliff, possibly by the same man who murdered the president.

"So I called the station," says Mrs. Flinner. "There was so much confusion going on. But they told me he was dead. I just freaked out. I couldn't believe this was happening. 'Here the president and now my husband! You've got to be wrong!' It was total devastation."

The night of the shooting, Mrs. Tippit's world was "complete chaos."

"The doctor came over and gave me a shot, but I never went to sleep," she says. "The days and weeks and months that followed were just terrible. You keep on going because you have to. You say your prayers and you feed your children and you read your Bible and you live one day at a time, so it gets to the point where you can live a single day without crying. ... I don't see anything wrong with people crying."

As recently as this week, Mrs. Flinner and her children, who have given her 11 grandchildren, found themselves discussing, once again, what may have prompted Officer Tippit to stop Oswald.

After a description of the suspect in the president's murder had been released on police radio, Officer Tippit was assigned to patrol central Oak Cliff. Most officers had been dispatched to the downtown area.

Arousing suspicion

Investigators say Oswald was wearing a zipped-up jacket, which concealed a handgun, and had to be sweating. It was 68 degrees.

"That's just the kind of thing that would have gotten J.D.'s attention," says Mrs. Flinner.

Within 3 minutes of the president's shooting, Oswald had left the Texas School Book Depository, where he was employed. About 18 minutes before Officer Tippit's slaying, Oswald returned to his Oak Cliff rooming house at 1026 North Beckley, where landlady Earlene Roberts said he walked in hurriedly and left about three minutes later without speaking.

A witness to the Tippit slaying, Helen Markham, "saw exactly what happened," says Mrs. Flinner. Ms. Markham and other witnesses later identified Oswald in a lineup.

"Ms. Markham told me that J.D. stopped him, and Oswald walked over and put his hands on the side of the car," says Mrs. Flinner. "He looked in the window and spoke with J.D., who got out of the car. When J.D. was even with the front wheel of his car is, she said, when Oswald shot him."

Dale K. Myers, author of With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit, has interviewed several witnesses to the shooting. Some saw Oswald walking east, others saw him walking west. Mr. Myers speculates that Oswald turned abruptly when he saw the patrol car, which would have attracted the officer's attention.

He also dismisses any suggestion that Officer Tippit was part of a conspiracy.

"It's totally ludicrous," he says. "I talked to a great many friends and family members, all of whom say it was totally foreign to J.D.'s personality to be involved in anything like that. In other words, his character would not have permitted such a thing. And B, he had no time to get involved in anything like that. In addition to being the married father of three children, he was working three jobs at the time he was killed."

And because he was, Mrs. Tippit's problem was both how to cope and how to function. Paying the bills became an immediate concern.

Soon, however, the money poured in. The largest single donation came from Abraham Zapruder, who contributed the initial payment of $25,000 he received from Life magazine for his 8mm movie of the assassination. A $330,000 police trust fund helped pay the college expenses of Officer Tippit's children.

But nothing could take away the hurt from Mrs. Tippit.

"I couldn't figure out how in the world I was going to manage to keep going. He was the other part of me," she says. "There was just no way. My mother, my daddy, kept saying, 'You've got the children. You've got us. We're all here to support you.' "

Without family support and faith ? Mrs. Flinner is a lifelong Baptist, as was Officer Tippit ? she would have been lost in a sea of grief, she says.

She says police told her that her husband was a hero, that Oswald might have escaped had he not had the instinct to stop him. "Because Oswald killed J.D., he was captured," she says. Thirty-six minutes after her husband's murder, Oswald was arrested in the Texas Theatre, where he came close to killing another officer.

Mrs. Flinner says she never felt bitterness for Oswald, just overwhelming sadness at having "to live every day without my husband. I had so many people tell me he was a very cautious officer. And yet he stopped Oswald. ... I'm sure there was some real suspicion on his part or he never would have stopped him."

She also feels no bitterness for Oswald's widow, Marina Porter, who, like Mrs. Flinner, has remained in the Dallas area. "I never met her," says Mrs. Flinner. "But you know, my heart kind of goes out to her. She's had a lot to live with all these years. And her kids, too. I'm sure they've had a rough time."

Mrs. Flinner says she never considered leaving the city, believing "you don't run away from heartache or sadness or problems. They always go with you." She still lives in Oak Cliff.

Tippit's children

Now 44, Curtis Tippit says he remembers "a little bit" of waiting by the window for his father but can't remember the details like his mother can. He does remember what a wonderful mom she was.

Curtis says the hardest part "was not being able to talk to a real father or ask advice or figure things out. I was so young, I don't have all the memories to be attached to, so it's the feeling of loss in that regard, not being able to have that kind of relationship with a father that everyone should have."

Today, he's the father of eight children. Like his mother, he despises "the false things written."

"People want sensationalism. Mom's been abused," he says, by conspiracy theories and tabloid publications, and as a result "wouldn't talk to anybody about it for years."

Too many people, he says, want to cling to a false history, "believing my father was in on something with Jack Ruby and went to meet him and all this stuff. Really, it's all kind of silly and funny. If anybody knew the facts, they'd see how false these theories are. Anybody in a conspiracy would not take care of the kids the night before and be in bed by 9:30. But a whole lot of people thrive on it."

Curtis sitting by the window was, Mrs. Flinner says, the worst of many awful moments. She would hold him and tell him his daddy loved him and that she missed him as much as he did. Brenda, now 50, suffered devastating stomachaches and "for the longest time, just couldn't handle it," her mother says.

The death may have hurt his oldest son more than anyone. "Allan had a terrible time coping," she says. "It affected him for years. He couldn't talk about it for a very long time."

He "was arrested and got involved with drugs, but he's gotten himself straightened out," says Mrs. Flinner, who believes her husband's death "was the major contributor. Allan was so torn up over that."After four years, the officer's widow decided it was time to re-marry. "My preacher and my doctor and all my friends were saying, 'You ought to get married again. Your kids need a daddy and a man in your life.' "

She said yes to Dallas Police Lt. Harry Thomas, her husband from 1967 to 1982, when he died of cancer. "I'm sure I was never the wife I could have been," she says sadly. "Because I just wasn't ready to get married again. Harry was a wonderful fellow. He was good to me, and he did the best he could as a stepfather." She eventually married a third time, to current husband Carl Flinner.

Normal life

All along, she says, she kept trying to return her children to some semblance of normalcy. Hoping to shield them from the public eye is the reason she gives for having spurned numerous book offers and hundreds of interview requests, until this week.

"I just wanted my children to have a chance to grow up as normal, average kids," she says. "And not to be judged by every little thing that came up."

She compares her approach to that of Jackie Kennedy, who she says "did her best to try that tactic with her kids ? to protect them. It's important for kids to grow up and be themselves without being judged by events that happen. And being in the public eye was certainly not going to help them be normal kids."

More than anything, she says, she misses her first husband. And what does she miss the most? "Just him not being here!" she says, with a tear in her eye. "If he was just here, if he could just be here! I've never stopped wanting that."

And the lesson learned from her fallen hero? "To be loved," she says. "I was privileged to have been married to J.D. for 17 years. He was a good husband and a good father. And I knew I was loved. You know, that is the most important thing in your life. To be loved. And to be able to express that love to others. And that's what J.D. was for me."

I don't wish to be argumentative ,but I disagree with the Islamic belief that I should be killed! " If radical atheists decided they needed to kill believers to ensure their place in nothingness, I'd be criticizing that too."

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