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Smith: They tried to be helpful to Lee Oswald

Twice on Saturday, C-SPAN will air Santa Rosa resident Ruth Hyde Paine's talk recalling her friendship 50 years ago with Marina Oswald and her anquish upon learning that the rifle used to kill the president had been concealed in her garage.

Now 81, Paine was a young mother living outside of Dallas when she invited Marina Oswald into her life and home, and she tolerated the young Russian immigrant's controlling and seemingly unbalanced husband, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Ruth Paine was trying to help the family when she told Lee Oswald about a job opening at the Dallas School Book Depository. She also invited his pregnant wife to live with her and her kids in Irving, Texas, and offered to store the Oswald family's things in her garage.

Lee Oswald had begun working at the book depository when he appeared unexpectedly at Paine's home on the afternoon of Nov. 21, 1963.

Paine and the Warren Commission later concluded that Oswald had read in a newspaper that President John F. Kennedy would motorcade past the depository the next day, and he went to Payne's house to get the 6.5mm Carcano rifle he had hidden there, wrapped in a blanket.

Shortly after the fatal shooting of JFK, Paine played a key role in helping authorities to discover a letter widely regarded as proof that this was not Lee Oswald's first attempt at assassination.

He apparently wrote the letter to Marina before he fired the same rifle at right-wing former general Edwin Walker in April of '63, but missed.

C-SPAN was here when Ruth Paine addressed the Sonoma Valley Historical Society in September. The talk will be broadcast on C-SPAN3 at 5 a.m. Saturday and again at 10:30 that night.

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MICHAEL PAINE, Ruth's ex-husband, will not be on C-SPAN. But he, too, has some intriguing insights into Lee Harvey Oswald.

Michael Paine, who is 85 and lives in Sebastopol, met the Oswalds in Texas at the same time as Ruth. He found Lee Oswald to be a self-important loner: “I called him a pipsqueak,” he said.

Michael Paine was probably the first person outside of the Oswalds to see the now infamous photo of Oswald posing with his rifle and copies of Socialist newspapers. He spotted it during a visit to the Oswalds' apartment.

Paine said Oswald told him he read between the lines of the papers to find out what he was supposed to do.

Though he didn't regard Oswald as a violent threat at the time, Paine said that for 50 years he's believed Oswald did not so much kill JFK as he killed a U.S. president who happened to be JFK.

As a result, he said, the pipsqueak “is in the history books now.”

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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