Marie Tippit, the widow of the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald about 45 minutes after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, has died. She was 92.
Tippit died Tuesday at a hospital in the East Texas city of Sulphur Springs after being diagnosed with pneumonia following a positive test for COVID-19, said her son, Curtis Tippit, 62. He said his mother also suffered from congestive heart failure.
Stephen Fagin, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which tells the story of Kennedy’s assassination in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, said Tippit was “one of our last direct links to the personal pain and tragedy of the assassination.”
“She was this quiet reminder that the assassination, the pain of that memory, can still be felt right up to the present day,” Fagin said.
At about 1:15 p.m. that day, Officer J.D. Tippit, was on patrol in a neighbourhood just southwest of downtown when he spotted a man walking down the street that met the description of the shooting suspect.
Moments later, Tippit got out of his patrol car and Oswald opened fire, killing Tippit. Oswald, who was arrested a short time later at the Texas Theatre, was killed two days later by nightclub owner Jack Ruby during a police transfer.
Marie Tippit told The Associated Press in 2013 that it was “just remarkable that I kept going” after her husband’s death.
“Without God’s help, I wouldn’t have because I just couldn’t picture how we were going to live without him,” said Tippit, who was 35 when her husband was killed. “I just couldn’t figure that out.”
“I had three children that needed their dad, but he wasn’t there anymore.”
On the day he was killed, J.D. Tippit had broken from his usual routine and ate lunch at home, where his wife fried some potatoes and made a sandwich for him.
“I kissed him bye, not realizing that would be the last time I would see him, but I felt the Lord really blessed by letting him come by that one last time,” she told the AP.
J.D. Tippit, 39, had been an officer for 11 years when he was killed. He and Marie, who both grew up in the same area of northeast Texas, were married Dec. 26, 1946, after he returned from World War II, where he served as paratrooper in the U.S. Army.
“He was a great family man,” Marie Tippit said. “He loved his work. He felt that he was helping.”
Her family said in a statement that “as much as you want to make her life a tragic story, you can’t because her countenance was joyful, thankful and generous.”
“She wanted to give, not be given to, she wanted to reach out and befriend, not wait to be befriended. She wanted to pray for you, not you pray for her,” the family statement said.
Rick Janich, family friend and a retired Dallas police officer, said Marie Tippit helped raise funds for families of officers who had been killed, and also offered them advice.
“She would always spend time with them and just tell them: ’You’re going to be OK. You’re going to be OK,’” Janich said.
“She lived 57 years after losing the love of her life,” Janich said. “She wanted to keep strong for her family and kept her faith in God.”
Marie Tippit married twice after J.D. Tippit was killed. Her second husband died of cancer and her third marriage ended in divorce.
Her oldest son Allan, died in 2014 at the age of 64. She’s survived by her son, Curtis, and daughter Brenda, 67.
In 2013, Marie Tippit spoke about a letter she received shortly after her husband’s death from another young widow, Jacqueline Kennedy.
“She said that she had lit a flame for Jack and she was going to consider that it would burn for my husband, too, that it would burn forever,” Tippit said.
Jamie Stengle, The Associated Press