At 16, Tony Zappone would do just about anything to get close to his hero. In November of 1963, the stars aligned for the most memorable day of his life. It began at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
"The national press corps stormed the tarmac," recalled Zappone, now a Tampa retiree. "I decided I was going to fight these guys. I'm not going to let these people get in my way."
GETTING CLOSE TO KENNEDY
He made a beeline for President John F. Kennedy, who arrived here for a campaign stop on November 18, 1963 -- just four days before he was killed in Dallas.
Zappone was a student at Jefferson High School and a camera buff who took pictures for the yearbook. A faculty advisor managed to get him a press pass.
Zappone wasn't going to waste the opportunity.
"President Kennedy came through that door right there," Zappone told me as we walked into the long-empty National Guard armory.
Zappone was all over the armory that day snapping picture after picture. It's silent now, but Zappone seemed to tap into the energy that was there 48 years ago.
"It was absolute excitement," he remembered. "People would have waited here a week to see him. He was a rock star."
STAYING WITH THE PRESIDENT
Zappone's high school buddy, Gary Williams, drove him all over town to get photos. He took pictures at old Al Lopez field of the president diving into a crowd, shaking hands. You can see the grim faces of Secret Service agents who might have preferred the president be more cautious. But no one dreamed of what would happen in Dallas.
"I rode with him all day," said former congressman Sam Gibbons, now 91 years old. "All along the way, people were jumping up and down and screaming and waving. He felt real good about his Tampa visit."
JUST THE RIGHT MOMENT
Zappone took dozens of pictures that day. He remembers finding a position in downtown Tampa to photograph President Kennedy's speeding motorcade. He would only get one shot, at the corner of Franklin and Twiggs.
"When the motorcade got to the intersection, I just snapped."
It was a perfect picture of the president standing in his limousine and waving. It's been used since in several books, newspapers, and documentaries.
Zappone's longtime friend, John E. Oliva, spent two weeks restoring the pictures using Photoshop. He removed specs and other flaws. The collection now looks better than ever.
Zappone shared his photos with the Kennedy Library. He has presented the pictures to the president's brother, Robert, who would also die from an assassin's bullet.
"Bobby liked this one," added Zappone, referring to a photo of John F. Kennedy smiling at one of his stops in Tampa. "And it's my favorite too."