ME & LEE: HOW I CAME TO KNOW, LOVE AND LOSE LEE HARVEY OSWALD --AND WHY I DID NOT FORGET HIS WORDS
BY JUDYTH VARY BAKER
I am being asked how I’ve been able to remember conversations that occurred decades earlier. At one time, I was able to read a page and recite every word on the page, but since having sustained several concussions a decade ago, I’ve lost that ability. However, I still retain an excellent memory for details, as anyone knows who converses with me. Recently, however, I have been asked how I could possibly have remembered, in full detail, the conversations as presented in the book Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald. (see http://www.judythvarybaker.com for more information).
Indeed, when I first presented our conversations in book form, in late 1999, I was afraid to place them in quotes for fear I wouldn’t be believed. “How could she remember so many details?” could have seemed a quite reasonable question, unless one had met me and knew how entirely precise I could be concerning details on almost any subject. I have been blessed (or cursed) with the ability to remember almost everything I’ve ever read. My brain is actually overloaded with information.
Nevertheless, most of the conversations in the book Deadly Alliance, -- the first largely accurate book about “Me and Lee” -- written with the help of researcher Howard Platzman -- were recorded in “he said,” and ”she said” mode.
That book did not convey enough information, based as it was on emails passed back and forth, though it was a vast improvement over the ‘teaser book’ shown to publishers a year earlier, which contained very little information. The teaser book was a means to see what publishers might be interested in what I had to say without revealing key matters that I held back until I could determine which publisher(s) could be trusted.
Unfortunately, at the time I had a literary agent who tried to force the CBS news magazine Sixty Minutes to take “his” producer --- Isidore Rosmarin--- who had produced some stories for Sixty Minutes in the past --to film my story.
But Sixty Minutes wanted to use a different producer. When the agent refused to cooperate on this and other matters, I fired him.
There would be no more meetings with publishers, after that bad experience with an agent, for a decade. Even my association with the seasoned researcher, Harrison E. Livingstone, who went on to publish an unauthorized version of my book, was wholly through emails. But Livingstone wanted the book to be published quickly. Consequently, he did not allow me to check it for errors. It had far too many, and I stopped its publication.
Disappointed with Livingstone’s incomplete editing job, I returned to my original plan – not to have the information published until after my death. I would just go on with my life—if possible. But I was being harassed and threatened. And Internet newsgroups had set out to destroy my reputation. I defended myself, which simply gave them material to alter, or to shamelessly quote in bits and pieces out of context. When I corrected false statements that they attributed to me, they said I had changed my story. They even published so-called contradictions that they, themselves had created. In addition, false stories were circulated, such as that I had changed my name to “Vary” from “Avary” because I was ashamed of my family’s name – a story even mentioned by the respected researcher, Jack White, who believed it was true.
======Jack White, on Apr 11 2010, 01:25 AM, said to Dr. James Fetzer:====
"JVB has claimed that she "hated" her family name of AVARY (Judy Ann Avary), so she changed her name to Judyth A. VARY. I consider this a peculiar thing for a teen girl to do. And then go off all alone to a distant strange city. Sounds like a bad familial relationship. A runaway? Jack"=================
The truth: my maiden name was "Judyth Anne Vary." I never 'hated' my family name, and my family name was never "Avary." I used "Avary" as a FIRST name when teaching at the University of Louisiana for six years, so that the name "Judyth" would not be used -- I was afraid of being linked to 1963 too easily. Many equally silly stories have been passed around, along with unfounded accusations and speculations.
Apparently “anything goes” in newsgroups, but I mention the problem here because other "quotations" are rampant in the newsgroups that are equally absurd and unfounded.
Most newsgroups have been infiltrated by persons who deliberately create dissent, parroting old government-sponsored lies about Oswald that have long been disproven, but which the government continues to disseminate.
I call such defenders of that obsolete stance traitors to their country. They believe that for the security of the country, these intelligent and clever liars have decided that we should not know who killed Kennedy (the government, through the Mafia, supported by the far right and a military-industrial complex coalition that developed eternal warfare with our neighbors, greedily promoting the financial and moral rape of America’s middle class). I am proud of the scars I carry due to these traitors.
I had decided to go to the grave, originally, with what I knew, and to simply let my son publish the book posthumously. Then I would not have to battle the forces that could (and did) ruin my life. However, two factors came into play to change my mind about going to the grave before this vital information about Oswald was released to the public: 1) my son was unaware of the milieu in New Orleans, and in the nation, in 1963, and, worse, knew almost nothing about the lies and falsehoods circulating about Oswald. He would be unable to defend the book. 2) I realized that he would not understand the value of the materials I had saved from the past, and how they helped me achieve the feat of remembering the conversations.
A streetcar ticket dated April 28, for example, would have little meaning for my son, whereas for me, it evoked a host of sharp, strong memories, including key conversations. The streetcar ticket shown on p. 145 in the first printing, first edition of Me & Lee, represented the second time I had ridden the St. Charles streetcar in New Orleans. I had failed to save the first ticket, but I saved the second one.
Ihis streetcar ticket and the announcement of the opening of Pontchartrain Beach were saved together…just one example of how I made sure I kept a good chronology of events. Even the time of the streetcar ride is indicated on the ticket.
Each time I looked at that ticket, over the years, a surge of memories of that pivotal day broke over my thoughts in a cascading stream of events. I could remember almost every moment, the most important of which was Lee’s confession that he had beaten his wife. That confession impelled me to decide to go ahead and marry Robert A, Baker, III.
I kept hundreds of such items, and with the help of a diary ---until it was stolen and burned in my very front yard – an event for which I have witnesses --- I was able to keep my memories quite fresh.
Once a year, around Thanksgiving, I would go through several boxes of ‘old things’ – a habit that also produced stacks of Christmas ornaments and other items to begin Christmas decorating. I would dedicate a whole day to what I believed was my duty: not to forget. After my 1986 divorce, I was able to spend far more time going over the conversations and events, without fear of being discovered. My goal was to one day tell Oswald’s beloved daughters just exactly who their father was, but I was also anxious that they would understand exactly why and how their father had come to have a love affair with another woman while still married to their mother.
Their father was entirely innocent of the grave charges against him—the killing of the President, and of a Dallas police officer—and I was determined that Lee Oswald’s sacrifices for his country would not be forgotten. I realized that not only Oswald’s daughters, but also the whole world, would have no way to hear their father’s voice if I did not preserve his words in my memory.
After the assassination of President Kennedy, Lee’s wife, Marina, had been under tremendous pressures. She could have been deported, and her American-born baby left behind, for example, so of course I forgive her for her quailing in the face of threats, as I hope she will forgive me for my existence as “the other woman.” I understand her fears: I was told to keep my mouth shut if I wanted to stay alive, and I did so for decades. Marina was unable to hide. She was in the spotlight.
Life Magazine's Allan Grant photographed Marina Oswald afer the assassination, and the words used to describe that assignment ring with cruel prejudice, with Lee Oswald automatically described by the well-controlled media as Kennedy's killer --which is still the case today:
"Afer (sic) the assassination of JFK was reported, Grant was sent to Dallas, where he photographed Lee Harvey Oswald's wife, Marina (bottom). Working with Life correspondent Tommy Thompson, they tracked down the family of Lee Harvey Oswald and got the exclusive for the magazine,” writes Marden. Richard Stolley, Life’s Los Angeles bureau chief at the time, remembers the coverage. “His kindness toward that notorious family enabled him to win their confidence. After all, it wasn’t their fault that they had a presidential assassin as son and husband, and Allan instinctively understood that.”
It was no secret that Oswald’s marriage was miserable. It improved when the couple lived in New Orleans, for Lee had promised me that he would never strike his wife again, and he kept his promise, knowing that I would have nothing more to do with him if he broke it. As Lee Oswald learned to control his anger – his wife could say very cruel things, and could be very provocative – I saw him mature before my eyes into the man he yearned to be –more gentle, sensitive, and kind. Lee Oswald was always kind to animals and children, but I reminded him that Hitler had dogs he loved, and was quite kind to children. They were no threat to his manhood. It was Lee’s challenge, I insisted, to become the kind of man I knew he really could become.
Witnesses who defended Lee Harvey Oswald were ignored – and some died under suspicious circumstances, or were actually murdered. Then, for decades, the public was given a grossly distorted picture of the accused assassin, based on a mass of poorly handled and sometimes faked evidence. But it was Lee Harvey Oswald who intervened to save Kennedy’s life – at the risk of his own—in Chicago. It was Lee Harvey Oswald who joined an ’abort team’ that was organized to try to save Kennedy in Dallas.
Thus Oswald had to be eliminated, even before the eyes of millions, before he could tell reporters and others who was responsible for the President’s death.
Lee Harvey Oswald was shot to death by someone who had been a friend of his for years – the Dallas Mafia bagman and police fixer Jack Ruby, who ran a local nightclub. Ruby later told reporters that “a new kind of government” was taking over the country. The reason he had to kill Oswald would never become known, he said, because those in “high places” would make sure of that.
I had been forced into silence to save my life. But I finally realized that if I did not speak out during my lifetime, I would have no way of defending the book, Oswald’s words, or the researchers and witnesses who already given so much to get the truth to the people. By speaking out, my career – to be a respected professor of English -- was destroyed. I was also heckled, harassed, threatened, and harmed, to the extent that I had to leave the country twice, and finally, in 2007, permanently, becoming the first American non-combatant woman to seek political asylum in the EU system.
There I was sheltered for over ten and a half months –as long as the system could legally keep me (for the US is not on the list of countries from which asylum seekers could be accepted), until my family and friends found ways for me to live in safe places overseas, far from my enemies. To this day I rely on donations to pay for the medical problems I still have from the so-called “accidents” I suffered while living in Dallas, where I had moved in order to try to find more witnesses to help me defend Oswald.
I wish to make it clear that the conversations that Lee Oswald and I shared were memorized and kept fresh in my memories over time because they were not the ordinary kind of conversations that a man and a woman share, who are in love. They were conversation kept intact in my memory because they were conversations involving the planned murder of Cuba’s communist leader, Fidel Castro, the clandestine development of formidable bioweapons, and the knowledge that Lee Oswald confided to me that he had penetrated an assassination ring intent on killing Kennedy. Would YOU forget such conversations?
Lee told me, too, that he was “better off dead to both sides” –the Communists and the CIA – because neither side could trust him. This was the man accused of killing President John F. Kennedy. It was my solemn responsibility, therefore, to retain the memory of what Oswald said. I do not pretend to have recalled every word he spoke, but I can guarantee that everything written in these conversations represent the true mind of Oswald as he confided his thoughts and concerns to me. Over the years, if I recalled something that I had missed, I would enter it under the proper day, and even the hour.
Mary Ferrell, upon seeing my personal chronology, gave me a personal copy of her own. Her gift allowed me to find the information I badly needed concerning Fernando Fernandez, a pro-Castro spy about whom I could previously find nothing . Finding his name in the Ferrell chronology was a relief, for it allowed me to see that I had correctly recalled everything about him.
I was surprised, however, to find a number of errors in Ferrell’s chronology, which I have pointed out to researchers. Most of these “errors” are traceable to misinformation deliberately generated to falsely implicate Oswald. The prejudice in Ferrell’s chronology is obvious in such statements as “Oswald shot at General Walker,” and her entirely unreasonable living allowance for him and his family, which fails, for example, to take into account transportation and medical expenses. I have my own record of expenses for my life in New Orleans at that time, to the very penny, and I could not have lived on the puny allowance Ferrell applies to Oswald, his pregnant wife, and their toddler. Her point seems to be that he was able to finance everything without help from outside sources: this is not true.
When the book Me & Lee was being edited in an attempt to make the story shorter and more accessible to the general public, sometimes a few words would be changed or left out, and I would inform one of the editors involved that such-and-such words had to be retained. Presently, I see only one word in Oswald’s conversation printed in error in the first printing of Me & Lee -- on p. 457 the word “gravitating” is used, when Oswald actually said “grav-tating” --- a “typo” that was “corrected” by the editors without my noticing it.
There are a few other problems that will eventually be corrected that are now present in the 606-page book —a sentence is repeated, a photo of witness Mac McCullough is missing, and a photo of Charles Thomas, AKA Arthur Young, is mislabeled, with its hand-written message truncated. There are also a few typos in the mass of end notes, too, but all-in-all, the editors improved the book immensely. In particular, Edward T. Haslam, the author of Dr. Mary’s Monkey, made important and insightful improvements to the book. His expert knowledge of New Orleans meant that he was also able to obtain information about Mary Richardson, a then-young, socially-active wife of a well-known minister who could have been an important witness in the case. But chillingly, she died of an unexpected and suspicious heart attack only sixteen days after the assassination.
I want everyone to know that every sentence in the book coming from Oswald’s mouth is as close to what he said as memory has permitted. To anyone who wonders how I could have preserved the conversations, please remember: Lee Harvey Oswald was no ordinary man. This man was accused of killing Kennedy. These were historic conversations. If you had been in the position I was – in love with this innocent man – a man accused of killing Kennedy-- I believe that you, too, would have made an extra effort never to forget.