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11-Year-Old Blind Boy Meets President Kennedy in San Diego

June 6, 1963 - Little Joey Renzi saw President Kennedy in San Diego today with his hands. It was the only way the excited 11-year-old could realize his greatest ambition. Joey has been blind since birth. But for Joey (center, holding President Kennedy’s hand), taking the measure of the President of the United States with his hands on the parade field at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot was almost as good as seeing him with his eyes. “Boy,” he said, “I got to see the President! He’s kind of tall. He’s real neat-looking. Yes, I know he’s real neat-looking.” The meeting came about as a result of a letter Joey wrote the President in Braille asking to shake hands with him during Mr. Kennedy’s visit to San Diego. Joey’s hopes were not very high — until Secret Service agents came to his home to tell him the President would be happy to meet him. His entire family joined Joey for the happy occasion: his father, Navy submarine damage controlman Alfred Renzi (right), 41; his mother, Anna, 36; and his brothers, Johnny (in plaid jacket), 9, and Jimmy, 5, who also received Presidential handshakes. Joey said later that Mr. Kennedy had “a strong grip, a real strong grip for a big, important man like the President.” The President gave Joey a PT boat tie clasp as a souvenir, and Joey responded with a statement he had typed himself in Braille. The message said: “Dear President Kennedy: Thank you very much for letting me see you at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. It was a great honor, and I appreciate it very much. I will treasure this experience all my life. Your friend, Joey Renzi.”


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