NEW YORK — For years, curiosity seekers visiting the Fort Worth grave of Lee Harvey Oswald have wondered about the simple headstone next door, marked Nick Beef.
It turns out Nick Beef is alive and living in New York.
The New York Times reported that the 56-year-old man who uses that name purchased the cemetery plot next to Oswald’s in 1975 and had the granite marker placed there in 1997. Beef, born Patric Abedin, now lives in Manhattan and calls himself a nonperforming performance artist.
On Nov. 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, landed at the former Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth as part of a two-day Texas tour. Among the many gathered for the arrival was young Patric, the 6-year-old son of an Air Force navigator.
The future Beef was Mr. Popular the next morning at Waverly Park Elementary School, as he regaled his first-grade classmates with his presidential story. They soon went outside for recess, while his asthma kept him indoors. He was alone, then, when the principal announced over the loudspeaker that the president had been shot; alone, too, when the principal followed up to say the president was dead.
A young boy’s life continued. His father took him to the World’s Fair in New York. His older brother broke his jaw during some horseplay. His parents divorced. At the age of 10, he survived a car crash that killed a 9-year-old friend.
The lesson he was learning: “Things change really quickly.”
By the late 1960s, he was living with his remarried mother in Arlington, Texas. Every week they would drive to the Carswell base for his free asthma shot, then occasionally stop at the eclectic cemetery called Rose Hill on their way home. He recalled that his mother told him: ‘‘Never forget that you got to see Kennedy the night before he died.’’
When he was 18, Beef read that the burial plot next to Oswald’s was available. He bought it for $17.50 down and 16 monthly payments of $10.
Beef said he has often asked himself why he wanted it. ‘‘It meant something to me in life,’’ is the only answer he can come up with.
Beef moved to New York, married, had two children, and divorced. He did some freelance comedy writing using the name Nick Beef, a moniker he came up with while joking around with a friend.
His mother died in late 1996 and he returned to Texas to arrange her funeral.
He told the Times that during his stay, he visited his burial plot and decided to buy a gravestone with the exact dimensions as Oswald’s.
He told the cemetery official to inscribe it Nick Beef.
Yes, he admits, he has a penchant for the morbid. But this does not mean he bought the plot next to Oswald’s as a joke, or a piece of installation art, or anything of the kind. It’s personal. It’s about change. The fragility of life. Something.
And no, Nick Beef will not be buried inches from the man who killed Kennedy.
“I’d prefer to be cremated,” he said.