Abilene, Texas, December 23, 2017
Joseph F. Garvey is the last surviving former employee of Oneal Funeral Home, one of two major contractors for the Dallas area in 1963, which provided transport for the bodies of both President Kennedy and later his mortally wounded accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Garvey’s job was Funeral Home Director.
Mr. Garvey wants his descendants to know the role he and his employer played in the historic and tragic events of November, 1963, as well as dispute false statements given to the press by a coworker.
Garvey and others watched President Kennedy’s motorcade pass just blocks away from Oneal Funeral Home that fateful morning on November 22, 1963. They then “went about their business.”
He and a coworker had just completed an ambulance service call at Parkland Hospital in Dallas not long after, and were getting ready to go on another call when he “looked up and saw the presidential automobile turn in front of me” on its way to the hospital. Garvey then called into his dispatcher and commented that someone “was either very sick or had been shot.”
Soon after, his funeral home received a call from Parkland asking for a casket to be delivered. The funeral home’s owner, Vernon Oneal and a porter commenced to take the finest casket they had available to the hospital; one made of solid bronze. Once they’d delivered the casket to the Trauma Room, the president’s body was wrapped in a sheet and placed inside.
There was an infamous dispute in the corridors of Parkland Hospital between Secret Service agents and Kennedy’s aides, who wanted to take the President’s body with them to Washington D.C., and medical examiner Dr. Earl Rose and justice of the peace Theron Ward, who argued that since assassinating the president was not a federal crime at the time, it fell under local jurisdiction and the removal of his body was illegal. Secret Service agents and Kennedy’s aides cursed the pair and forced their way past them, all in the presence of Jackie Kennedy, who continued to guide the bronze casket down the hallway.
Once Kennedy’s body was placed in the casket and loaded into Oneal’s funeral coach, the Secret Service commandeered the vehicle, leaving Mr. Oneal afoot at Parkland Hospital. Kennedy’s body and Jackie were then driven by the Secret Service to the airport to be loaded onto AirForce One to be taken to Washington D.C. It would take hours for Oneal to locate his hearse at Love Field, reportedly having been left in an obscure hangar.
Two days later, on November 24, Former U.S. Marine and supposed Soviet defector, Lee Harvey Oswald, who’d been arrested and accused of assassinating Kennedy, was shot in the basement of the Dallas Municipal Building by local nightclub owner and police/mafia associate Jack Ruby during Oswald’s transfer from the Dallas City Jail to the County Jail.
(Ruby had told FBI informant Bob Vanderslice to “watch the fireworks,” a short time before Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, indicating he may have had advanced knowledge of the president’s murder later that day.)
Witnessing Oswald’s shooting on live TV, Garvey immediately told his employees to drive an ambulance to the scene before they even received a call for service. The armored vehicle intended to transport Oswald had to be moved so that Oneal’s ambulance could be backed in to recover Oswald’s fatally wounded body. The ambulance took Oswald to Parkland Hospital, where he died soon after.
Setting the Record Straight
Garvey disputes details related by a coworker, Donald McElroy to a Tyler, Texas newspaper in 2007, when he apparently was trying to sell copies of Kennedy’s death certificate. McElroy has stated he witnessed “confusion, screaming and crying,” as well as First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s “shocked, calm demeanor” at Parkland Hospital in the aftermath of Kennedy’s shooting. Garvey says he knows McElroy’s statements were untrue, because the two men were together in an ambulance at the time.
Garvey also states that McElroy’s claim that he helped place Kennedy’s body in the casket at Parkland Hospital, and his claim that he helped “position the casket” so that Mrs. Kennedy could sit near her husband, were false, again because McElroy was nowhere near the scene, and was with Garvey on another service call.
It was my pleasure to meet Joseph Garvey and take down his story, which he wishes to pass down to his daughter, Camie Garvey, who owns and operates Abilene Yoga House, and his grandchildren.