He never got to see his hero in person, but Louie Nicoletti, Columbus, has made up for it by accumulating a huge collection of John F. Kennedy memorabilia.

He never got to see his hero in person, but Louie Nicoletti, Columbus, has made up for it by accumulating a huge collection of John F. Kennedy memorabilia.
This collection will be on  display from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Rose Parish Hall, Columbus.
Nicoletti, who grew up in Arma, said he’s been collecting for about 40 years.
“The way this got started was because of Special Olympics, which was started by the Kennedys,” he said. “If you sent a donation to Special Olympics, you’d get a hammered bronze bust of Kennedy, so I did.”
It’s not the only bust he has of Kennedy, 35th U.S. president, who would have been 92 today. He was born May 29, 1917.
“I’ve got one of solid aluminum that weighs 50 pounds, and another one that was made by Roger Neer, who used to be on KOAM TV,” Nicoletti said.
His collection, which he said includes more than 1,000 items, also features numerous portraits of the late president, JFK campaign pins, plates, stamps, coins, spoons, a JFK “GI Joe” figure based on his exploits during World War II, a miniature setting of JFK in a rocking chair in front of a fireplace, even a JFK spittoon.
One possibly unique item is a striking red glass vase with a base incorporating melted multi-colored glass and a face of JFK inside.
“Nobody I talk to has ever seen one like it before,” Nicoletti said about the vase.
He’s also got two plastic hats dating from Kennedy’s visit to the Joplin, Mo., Airport on Oct. 22, 1960. But Nicoletti said he wasn’t able to drive over to see the presidential candidate. He and his wife, Mona, were working in his store, Louie’s Grocery and Service Station.
“In the 30 years we ran that store in Columbus we were closed three days,” Nicoletti said.
Now he’s  retired, and enjoys working in his two big gardens. He’s also thinking about what to do with his Kennedy collection.
“My family doesn’t want it, so I’m thinking about getting it in a museum, or maybe have an auction through some place like Sothebys,” he said.
Whatever he chooses to do, Nicoletti will need to  document his collection with individual photos of each item. Since he’ll need to unpack them and put them out on tables to do this, he decided that he might as well let people come and see the memorabilia.
“I showed it 10  or 15 years ago,” Nicoletti said. “It takes up four 30-foot tables.”
There will be no charge to attend the exhibit, but those who wish may bring a can of non-perishable food to donate to the local food pantry. 
“I got that idea from Kennedy, too, because he was one of the ones who started giving to the needy,” Nicoletti said.
He still mourns the loss of Kennedy, who was assassinated at the age of 46 on Nov. 22, 1963.
“I was waiting on a customer when they announced that Kennedy was killed, and I didn’t know anything for half an hour afterward,” Nicoletti said. “I sure would like to have seen what he would have done as president, but he never had a chance.”