Kennedy's Southern Arizona legacy - Tucson News Now

Kennedy's Southern Arizona legacy

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

About 30 miles South of Tucson just off Interstate 10, a sign points to the J-Six ranch. It's about a mile west of the interstate nestled at the base of the Whetstone Mountains.

It's no longer a working ranch. It's privately owned and not open to the general public.

But it contains what might one day be a very public display of John Kennedy's legacy to the people of Southern Arizona.

Kennedy was sent to the J-Six in the summer of 1936 by his father to toughen him up and help him get ready to participate in college sports.

Kennedy was 18 at the time.

The owner of the ranch, Jack Spieden was always looking for help and being an Ivy League graduate himself, looked East for young men who wanted the "cowboy" experience.

They worked for the experience, not the pay.

Kennedy came West with his older brother Joe in April 1936 looking to man-up, tan-up and learn hard work the cowboy way.

While on the ranch, they were treated as any other ranch hand, except Speiden may have treated them a bit tougher. It was said he worked them "very hard."

While on the ranch, the brothers built a one room adobe office for Speiden, who used it until he died in 1970.

There are photos of the two young men as they worked to construct it with adobe brick.

Their hand prints are still on the fireplace where they patted down the concrete.

The initials which were etched in the concrete are buried under the foundation.

The building has been covered with stucco and used as a store room.

Bat droppings cover the entrance and much of the floor.

Since Speiden died, the building has gone into neglect.

Inside, the adobe still stands firm but the rest of the building is in disrepair. 

The new J-Six owners, Duff Hearon and Steve Lenihan bought the ranch seven years ago and plan to build an upscale development.

But in their plans, they hope to preserve the legacy and create a museum.

It's expensive and will require permitting and safety regulations.

The hope to find a non-profit or government to help them out.

They've gathered written material and will gather more in hopes of creating a place where visitors can come.

But at the moment, it's only hope.

"We have to do what's realistic," says Hearon.

"Unless you know the history, it's just a piece of junk," he says. "But if you know the history, you know how precious it is." 

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