MERRILLVILLE | During the peak of the Cold War, Robert Deliget, of Merrillville, was stationed in Hanau, Germany, when he learned President John F. Kennedy would be visiting the base.
Deliget -- at the time a soldier in the U.S. Army -- was stationed at Hanau from December 1960 through June 1963.
"We knew for weeks that he would come," Deliget said of the June 25, 1963 event. "It was mostly military people out to watch him go by. He was there about four hours. He was with the generals, and maybe they had lunch before he went on to Berlin."
It was during the visit to Berlin that Kennedy delivered his historic "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech the next day.
Deliget grew up in East Chicago and Griffith and went into the Army with two friends who also ended up at Hanau with him.
Deliget was lined up with the other spectators to see the president pass by in his car accompanied by two generals. Deliget described the passing motorcade as "smooth and fast," but he had a Kodak 110 camera he used to snap several pictures of the distinguished visitor in those few seconds.
A few months later, Kennedy was dead of an assassin's bullet, and the film was still undeveloped. Deliget came home, got a job with NIPSCO and married. It was not until about 10 years after the Hanau visit that he remembered he had the film packed in his Army footlocker sent home just prior to his return to civilian life.
"I was shocked by what was on there," he said. "There were a lot of people around, so I wanted to see what was on the film. I didn't know how good it would be."
Or how historical. The car Kennedy rode in that day was the same one he was riding in on the fateful day in Dallas.
Deliget's wife, Joanne, has her own picture of Kennedy, this one from a visit Kennedy made to Gary during the 1960 presidential campaign. It was taken by her mother Regina Pundrich, who was among those who gathered at the Gary Hotel to see the Democratic frontrunner.
"She was just a curious bystander," Joanne Deliget said. "She liked to go see celebrities when they would come to the Chicago theaters."