By Allan Lengel
Retired Secret Service agent John Joseph Lardner rode behind President John F. Kennedy on Pennsylvania Avenue during his inauguration in 1961 and later went on to head up the agency’s Rhode Island office, the Boston Globe reported.
He died of a heart attack in Easton, Mass. on Nov. 19 at age 80.
The paper reported that Lardner told his family he was proud to be the kid from Lowell who grew up to guard the president.
But he was mum about most everything else about the Kennedy years, the Globe reported.
“There’s a reason we’re called the Secret Service,” Lardner often told his nephew, Michael Walsh of Bedford, N.H., according to the Globe.
Lardner, a US Marine Corps captain, was a Secret Service agent from 1959 until his retirement in 1983 as special agent in charge of Rhode Island and Bristol County, Mass.
“My dad lived his life by the Marine Corps code,” God, corps, and country, his oldest daughter, Kristin M. Brown of East Sandwich, Mass., told the Globe. “It was just the way his life was.”
The Globe reported that Lardner never talked about his assignment on the day Kennedy was shot or whether he was even in Dallas.
“He would never tell,” his daughter said.
“He had strong opinions about the assassination, but it was very difficult for him to talk about,” she told the Globe. “He was never a man at a loss for words, but it was the one subject you just couldn’t approach him about.”
After the assassination, he protected Jacqueline Kennedy and her children. His family told the Globe they believe Jackie Kennedy personally requested him.
The Globe reported that Lardner was a life-long Republican and supported state candidates including Senator Scott Brown.
“The only time I saw him cry in the 33 years I knew him was the day President Reagan died,” his daughter told the Globe. “He adored him.”