BEVERLY — Joseph Alsop was 14 years old when he met the future president of the United States.

Alsop was the son and nephew of influential newspaper columnists Stewart and Joseph Alsop. John F. Kennedy was a young senator from Massachusetts and a candidate for president.

In the late spring of 1960, Kennedy arrived at Alsop's uncle's home in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., to discuss his choice for vice president with the Alsop brothers. As the young Alsop looked on, he was struck by Kennedy's piercing blue eyes and nervous energy.

"He picked up a matchbook and kept tapping it against the table," he said.

That meeting made a strong impression on Alsop. And it's one of the reasons he is now the proud owner of Kennedy's only known diary.

Alsop, who lives in Beverly, bought the diary with a winning bid of $718,750 at an auction Wednesday at RR Auction in Boston. The sale price "far exceeded" expectations, according to RR Auction, which had set a minimum bid of $200,000.

Kennedy wrote most of the 61-page diary in 1945 during his brief stint as a journalist for Hearst newspapers after World War II. The 28-year-old reporter covered the formation of the United Nations in San Francisco, the post-war election in England, and the historic Potsdam Conference in Germany with Truman, Churchill and Stalin.

Kennedy also saw firsthand the devastation of post-war Berlin, where he described the overwhelming stench — "sickish and sweet" — of dead bodies, and visited the bombed-out bunker where Hitler died.

"There is no complete evidence, however, that the body that was found was Hitler’s body," Kennedy wrote. "The Russians doubt that he is dead.”

Alsop said he read the diary online and "fell in love with it."

"He wrote some pretty perceptive stuff in terms of the evolution of the post-World War II world, such as how effective the United Nations would be," he said. "It's a fun document to read."

Alsop, 71, is an MIT graduate and engineer who founded Progress Software in Bedford, where he served as CEO until 2009. He is now a venture partner with Alsop Louie Partners, an investment firm run by his brother Stewart. Alsop and his wife have lived in Beverly for 20 years.

Alsop said he considers the $700,000 that he paid for the diary a "reasonable price" given its uniqueness. The book was owned by Deirdre Henderson, Kennedy's former research assistant, and has been well-preserved over the years in a safe deposit box, he said.

As of Thursday, the diary remained in a safe at RR Auctions' office in New Hampshire until the proper insurance documents were finalized. Alsop said he has yet to decide how, or if, the diary will be displayed in his Beverly Farms home. But nearly 60 years after he met the future president, Alsop is thrilled to have made another personal connection.

"It's a great piece of history and I'm happy to end up with it," he said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com. Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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