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Illinois museum owner in battle over Oswald’s tombstone

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ROSCOE, IL (WITI) -- As the nation looks back 50 years to the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, some key items from the momentous day are located just 80 miles from Milwaukee.

Wayne Lensing owns Historic Auto Attractions in Roscoe, Illinois. The museum is full of quirky history including classic Hollywood cars and JFK memorabilia.

Lensing is a self-made millionaire who earned his fortune working in the auto industry. He started collecting classic cars after flipping through a magazine.

"And there's this car of Howard Hughes' there for sale in Reno, Nevada, from his doctor. I flew out and looked at it. I got all intrigued, we worked out a deal and by god, she's sitting back here in Roscoe," said Lensing.

Eventually Lensing built his collection to include the famous "Bonnie and Clyde" car, Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time" Cadillac, the Sanford and Son truck, Ecto-1 from the Ghostbusters, and the Griswold's family truckster.

Lensing says the crown jewel of his collection is the 1956 Cadillac Secret Service limousine from President John F. Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963.

"This is our most famous car in the museum," said Lensing. "This is the car that was directly behind Kennedy, riding within about, less than 10 feet behind him. This car here, when people come in, it draws them back in that time and they feel like they're part of it."

When Lensing purchased the car, it sparked a kind of kinship with Kennedy and he continued collecting -- over 400 different pieces of Kennedy memorabilia.

Other exhibits in the museum associated with the assassination include a piece of fence from the Grassy Knoll, the contents of Kennedy's briefcase on that day, and a window from the Texas Book Depository.

Lensing also owns a 130-pound slab of stone, engraved with a cross, dates, and the name of the most infamous assassin in history.

"I bought the Lee Harvey Oswald gravestone through a lady that, her husband passed away and it got willed to her from her husband, and I went down and I bought it," said Lensing.

The headstone would be one of Lensing's favorite pieces to talk about, but he says he is in the middle of a dispute over the marker. Texas nightclub owner David Card is suing to bring it back to Dallas.

The Card family first bought the house of Oswald's mother, Marguerite Oswald. She had hidden the tombstone in a crawl space after teenagers stole it.

"The date it got stolen?" asked Lensing. "November 22nd. Four years to the day after Kennedy's assassination."

The headstone was returned a few days later, but Oswald's mother feared the vandals would strike again. She replaced the original stone with one simply reading "Oswald" that remains at a Fort Worth cemetery to this day.

The lawsuit alleges that the Oswald family asked Card's step-aunt to take the original tombstone for safekeeping. Over the years it ended up in the hands of Card's step-cousin who eventually sold it to Lensing for around $10,000.

"That darn thing laid dormant since 1981. It's funny, after I bought that and I had it on my web site, all of the family and all of the kinfolk all of a sudden after all of these years think they need to have part ownership of that thing and they want it all back. I bought it in good faith. I bought it with a title -- title means receipt. We signed out a contract," said Lensing.

Until the dispute is settled, Oswald's grave marker will remain in Roscoe next to Lensing's other treasures of history and Hollywood.

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