Juneau Man Solves Mystery Of Governor’s Mansion Photo

The mystery of a picture found in the attic of the Alaska Governor’s Mansion has been solved, thanks to a Juneau resident.

Terry VanLeuven owns the original black and white picture of the late President John F. Kennedy shaking hands with a smartly dressed little boy.

Gov. Parnell and Terry VanLeuven with Kennedy picture. (Governor’s office photo)
Gov. Parnell and Terry VanLeuven with Kennedy picture. (Governor’s office photo)

Gov. Sean Parnell’s office last week asked the public if anyone could identify the child, thinking he was an Alaskan. During the 1960 presidential election, JFK made a campaign stop in Alaska.

When VanLeuven saw the picture in the Juneau Empire last week, he called the governor’s office and KTOO. He met with Parnell on Monday to tell him the story.

VanLeuven’s late wife took the picture when Kennedy was in Oregon, probably during a 1960 campaign stop. The boy in the picture is Brian Kennedy, who was 8-years-old at the time and the son of a Myrtle Point, Ore. logging family.

VanLeuven moved from Oregon to Alaska 33 years ago, and brought the picture with him. It still hangs in his home.

In 1986, he gave a framed copy to newly elected Gov. Steve Cowper. He had his 21-year-old daughter Tracy present it to Cowper at the annual Christmas open house at the governor’s mansion.

Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow says the picture will go to the Alaska State Museum and be included in the Cowper collection.

VanLeuven, who will be 76 in August, says he was really happy to hear that during his meeting Monday with Gov. Parnell.

 “Almost made me cry. I have no idea how that picture stayed with me 50 years in all the places I’ve been all over Alaska and some of the stuff I left behind, but I had that picture,” he says. “I guess that picture meant a lot to me or something, because I never lost it, you know.”

VanLeuven says the original picture was taken at the community building in Coquille, Ore.

Kennedy was the 35th U.S. president, elected in November 1960.  He was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.

Rosemarie Alexander is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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