A new book, Jackie, Janet and Lee, by J. Randy Taraborrelli — excerpted exclusively in the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday — reveals new details of the love affair between Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Jack Warnecke, the dashing architect whom she she met when he was commissioned to save the historical buildings surrounding Lafayette Square in Washington D.C. in 1962.
In the days following her husband President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Jackie hired Warnecke to design the President’s memorial with the eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery.
In the year that followed, Warnecke — an early pioneer of contextual design — and the former First Lady became romantically involved and even discussed marriage on a trip to Hawaii in the summer of 1966.
“Jack felt that Jackie desperately wanted to land somewhere and she cared for him and he provided a safe haven away from the nightmares and the PTSD that she was still experiencing over Jack and Bobby,” Taraborrelli, who interviewed Warnecke before he died in 2010, tells PEOPLE. “I’m not sure they would have actually married. I don’t think it was as serious for her as it was for him.”
But one day, she and Warnecke had a frank discussion about finances.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” he confided. “I’m … $650,000 in debt.”
Jackie, as Taraborrelli writes, “told him she was confident he would ‘figure things out,’ sounding — as Jack would later recall it, ‘rather distant.’ ”
After he told Jackie he loved her, she whispered “Goodbye for now, Jack.”
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The news, “pretty much ended their relationship because that’s not what she was looking for,” notes Taraborrelli. “She wasn’t looking to be in a relationship with someone who was in debt. That’s how she ended up with Aristotle Onassis.”
According to Taraborrelli, when Jackie told her mom, Janet Auchincloss, that Warnecke was in debt, she responded: “This is not the man for you.” And, notes the author, “That’s when Jackie turned her sights on Onassis.”
“Jack [who had four children from his first marriage] wanted them to be a blended family,” says Taraborrelli. “They made plans to marry but the problem was Jackie was in the midst of her most violent PTSD over J.F.K. and there was a hole in her that she was never able to fill. She was just too traumatized during those years to be for him what she needed to be — in order to be his wife.”
Her intense need for privacy and protection beyond what Warnecke could provide was also a factor.
For more on Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ love life, pick up the newest issue of PEOPLE magazine, on newsstands Friday.
“They had this connection but in the end I think that practical side of Jackie took over,” says Taraborrelli. “She realized that Onassis just made more sense.”
Still, Jackie and Warnecke, who designed many landmarks, including the Hawaiian State Capitol, in Oahu, Hawaii, and the AT&T building in New York City, remained lifelong friends. Says Taraborrelli: “He sent her cards every Valentine’s Day. All the way to the end of her life.”
Just before her death from a form of cancer of the lymphatic system on May 19, 1994, they had a conversation that Warnecke always remembered.
“How are you dealing with it all?” Warnecke asked her, regarding her recent diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
“I cry from time to time,” she told him. “In the shower, Jack. Where no one can hear me. I think that’s best.”
More of their love story may be revealed in the near future. Warnecke completed a memoir before his death in 2010, that covered his life, his loves — including his romance with Jackie — and his architecture, which his children are currently preparing to publish.
Jackie, Janet and Lee will be released on Jan. 30.