Hour of Farewell
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME ONE woman so affected the world? In the tiny French town of Pont-Saint-Esprit, where a century ago her great-great-grandfather earned his keep as a cabinetmaker, the flags at City Hall flew at half-staff. On the front steps of the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach, a single red hibiscus left by a stranger fluttered in the warm breeze. And in New York City, a woman on a mountain bike rode up to the elegant entrance of 1040 Fifth Avenue and placed a bouquet of red roses on the ground. “She was part of the landscape,” said Eileen Stukane before pedaling away. “I will miss her.”
Last week millions mourned Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, who died of cancer at age 64 on May 19 and who was buried four days later beside her murdered husband at Arlington National Cemetery. No doubt much of what the nation feels is sorrow for itself. Jacleen, as she liked to be called, had seemed inseparable from our personal histories: the American princess in the pillbox hat; the cosmopolitan First Lady flirting in fluent French with Charles de Gaulle; the stoic widow showing the country how to grieve with dignity; the celebrity mother insistent upon giving her children a sane upbringing; the surprisingly willing trophy wife of Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis; the dedicated book editor; the still-glamorous grandmother.
Imagine living a life that full—and dying young. Yet how strange to think that the mysterious mistress of Camelot left us only last week. To those who had never heard the tiny voice that belied her larger-than-life stature, who never saw the nails bitten ragged beneath the ladylike gloves, it was easy to believe that the woman—like the legend—would never die. Perhaps that is why the public greeted the first news of her illness almost with alarm. In February the intensely private Jackie announced that she had been given the diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Doctors said they believed they had caught the disease in its early stages and began chemotherapy. As the months passed, they remained optimistic—calling her prognosis excellent—even after she underwent emergency surgery for a bleeding ulcer on April 14.
Discharged from the hospital six days later, Jackie returned to the life she loved: working with her authors at Doubleday, treating her grandchildren, Rose, 5, Tatiana, 4, and 1-year-old Jack, to ice-cream cones, even catching a screening of Schindler’s List. She spoke to friends as if her cancer were a cold she couldn’t quite shake. “It’s annoying. I’m losing my hair, but I’m almost finished with the treatment,” Jackie told her Paris-based friend Countess Isabelle D’Ornano over the phone in late April. D’Ornano was not fooled by the assurances—nor, she says, was Jackie herself: “She knew she was lost.”
So, it seemed, did her longtime companion, 64-year-old Belgian-born financier Maurice Tempelsman. He stood by Jackie as the disease ravaged her body, hoping to offset the indignities of the medical process with his kindness. “He would help her into the examining room, help her walk to the ladies’ room,” says a hospital staffer. “He was always holding her hand or caressing her cheek.”
But the cancer worked quickly. By-May 16, a day after she took a long last walk through Central Park in the company of Tempelsman, her daughter Caroline, 36, and grandson Jack, Jackie was back in the hospital with what doctors called serious complications of her cancer. Two days later, at Jackie’s request, John Jr. and Caroline escorted their mother home. Her brother-in-law and close friend Sen. Edward Kennedy flew in from Washington. And her parish priest, Monsignor Georges Bardes of Manhattan’s Church of St. Thomas More, arrived at her bedside to hear her confession and administer the last rites.
Then on the morning of May 20, John Jr. descended from the apartment where he and Caroline had been raised, stood on the sidewalk where hundreds of reporters, cameramen and well-wishers had gathered and issued a brief statement. “Last night, at around 10:15, my mother passed on,” John said. “She was surrounded by her friends and family and her books and the people and the things that she loved. And she did it in her own way, and we all feel lucky for that, and now she’s in God’s hands.”
John faced the press with the same calm that his 34-year-old mother had displayed three decades earlier, when she had stood on Air Force One in her blood-spattered pink Chanel suit as Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President. She had seemed so young then but, as it turned out, her life was already more than half over. Now it was John’s turn to be strong. He stayed at his mother’s side constantly at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and during her last day at home. He, like Caroline, had the chance to talk and reminisce virtually until the end. “There’s been an enormous outpouring of good wishes from everyone in both New York and beyond,” John added. “And I speak for all our family when we say we’re extremely grateful. Everyone’s been generous. And I hope now that, you know, we can just have these next couple of days in relative peace.”
As guests came and went during the day, onlookers jostled for space behind police barricades, but the mood for the most part was respectful. On Sunday afternoon, when John Jr. emerged onto the 14th-floor balcony to wave hello to the well-wishers, a few voices shouted up, “We love Jackie,” and several broke into a spontaneous rendition of “God Bless America.” Other encounters were less warm. On several occasions, Kennedy and his girlfriend, actress Daryl Hannah, had to run down the street to avoid photographers and reporters asking questions about the stale of their relationship and about possible marriage plans; at one point the couple came barreling out of the building on Rollerblades, scattering photographers and reporters like pigeons.
Against that sometimes bizarre backdrop, the Kennedy children planned their mother’s funeral, ordering white peonies to adorn the altar at St. Ignatius Loyola church on Park Avenue, choosing the readings and personally calling or sending hand-delivered invitations to some 700 family members, politicians and friends. “Three things came to mind,” said John of the process of putting together a suitable service. “They were her love of words, the bonds of home and family, and her spirit of adventure.”
Left unstated was a fourth theme: Jackie’s passion for privacy. On the morning of Monday, May 23, outside St. Ignatius Loyola, the Roman Catholic church where Jackie was baptized as an infant and confirmed as a 12-year-old, police kept thousands of onlookers at a distance while guests—including members of the Kennedy clan (with the most notable exception of 103-year-old matriarch Rose, who watched the procession on TV from her home in Hyannis Port), Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill Ross, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Yoko Ono, Carly Simon, Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols—filed inside.
The Rev. Waller Modrys, pastor of St. Ignatius, officiated during the 80-minute-long ceremony, mixing solemn readings from the Bible with affectionate references to the woman he called Jacqueline or Mrs. Kennedy. John read from the Book of Isaiah. Caroline recited one of her mother’s favorite Edna St. Vincent Millay poems. After reading “Ithaka” by the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy, Tempelsman bid his companion a sad farewell. “And now the journey is over,” he said, “too short, alas, too short.” Opera diva Jessye Norman sang Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Ted Kennedy offered the eulogy—and an insight into his sister-in-law’s need for privacy. “She never wanted public notice,” he said, “in part, I think, because it brought back painful memories of an unbearable sorrow, endured in the glare of a million lights.”
Still, in death as in life, Jackie could not shield herself entirely from that glare. Above St. Ignatius, a helicopter hovered in a cerulean spring sky; outside, neighbors leaned from their windows with cameras and binoculars; along the avenue some mourners cried, some made the sign of the cross, others listened to the mass on their radios, reciting along with the service and singing along with the hymns.
At about 12:45 p.m. her body was transported on a chartered 737 Boeing jet from New York City to Washington, where a motorcade of motorcycles, buses and limousines escorted Jackie through the black iron gates of Arlington National Cemetery. There, in front of a private gathering of fewer than 100 people that included the President and Mrs. Clinton, Jackie, in a mahogany casket covered with ferns and a cross of white lilies-of-the-valley, was laid to rest between her husband Jack and her stillborn daughter. Her son Patrick, who died two days after his birth in 1963, lies on the former President’s other side. “God gave her very great gifts and imposed upon her great burdens,” said the President during the 11-minute ceremony. “She bore them all with dignity and grace and uncommon common sense.”
As Jackie’s friends and family knelt to touch the coffin one last lime, filing past the eternal flame that she herself first lit three decades ago, 64 bells rang out from the Washington National Cathedral across the Potomac River, one for each year of her extraordinary life. Then the black limousines drove out the gates, and the crowds began slowly to scatter. “We thought it was important to be here,” said Marnie Abramson, a 21-year-old student at Washington’s American University. “We weren’t even born then. She was a mystery. That whole time was a mystery. But this is the end of what happened to them. This is the closing of an era.”
A CHILDHOOD OF PRIVILEGE AND PAIN
JFK once observed that his socially sheltered wife “had a little too much status and not quite enough quo.” How could it have been otherwise? Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929, into solid wealth and social prominence. She had everything a girl could want: clothes and horses and huge expanses of Long Island countryside—everything but peace at home. Her hard-drinking, raven-haired stockbroker father, John “Black Jack” Bouvier III, whose fortunes wobbled on his way to being wiped out by alcohol and paramours, shamelessly indulged his daughters’ every whim. Jackie’s perfectionist, class-conscious mother, Janet Lee Bouvier, suffered through her sham of a marriage, not always in silence, until 1940. Then she divorced Black Jack, ending one agony but sending her two daughters (Lee was born in 1933) into a state of shock. Years later friends would remember the young Jackie wandering around her Long Island riding club in a kind of daze.
The future First Lady had already discovered reading as a form of escape (she had tunneled through The Wizard of Oz and Winnie the Pooh before kindergarten); later she would also begin treating her tension with cigarettes (Jackie was a lifelong chain-smoker away from cameras who reportedly stopped only when she was given the cancer diagnosis).
In 1942 her mother married an even richer financier, Hugh D. Auchincloss, and “Uncle Hughdie,” as Jackie and Lee called their stepfather, proved to be a stern but generous stepparent. Jackie attended Miss Porter’s, an exclusive Connecticut girls’ school, where she excelled both socially and academically and kept her own horse. Still, she remained deeply loyal to her father and resented her mother’s continual disparagement of him. Jackie could be soft one moment and sharp the next, a younger version of the woman who would charm poets and presidents, then turn on a glacial heel at a gala and leave the room. “There’s always been in her a kind of loneliness or sadness,” said Doris Kearns Goodwin, a longtime friend and author of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. “Even as a young girl she created this incredible persona to protect herself and keep others at a bit of a distance.”
Jackie made the dean’s list at Vassar College and, after a year of study in Paris, went on to earn a degree in French literature from George Washington University. In 1947 she was named Queen Deb of the Year by columnist Cholly Knickerbocker. And she succeeded in the best way, without seeming to try: the white tulle dress she wore for her coming-out party came off the rack—for less than $60 at a department store.
Not that Jackie wasn’t ambitious. After graduation she took a $42.50-a-week job as the Inquiring Camera Girl of the Washington Times-Herald and set her sights on the peripatetic congressman from Massachusetts, 34-year-old Jack Kennedy. Wealthy, handsome and going places, JFK qualified as the catch of the decade. Jackie met him at a dinner party and was immediately smitten. She courted Kennedy through her column, inviting him to be interviewed and then asking the question, “Can you give any reason why a contented bachelor would want to get married?” The answer was that Jackie was Roman Catholic, which he knew would sit well with his religious family. (As for Jackie’s family, Janet, a staunch Republican and a snob, was uneasy with the striving Kennedy clan.)
Jack took Jackie home to Hyannis Port. Imagine a single piece of china in a shop full of bulls. Jackie was, for the most part, appalled by the boisterous and competitive Kennedys, who seemed to argue and play their not-yet-famous touch-football games nonstop. She once joked to a friend, “I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to many him.” But she survived the hazing. Although she never got on well with pious Rose Kennedy, she became a favorite of peppery old patriach Joe, whose fortune came in part from liquor distribution and who liked her because he perceived her as having “class.”
The wedding took place on Sept. 12, 1953, at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, R.I. Janet had wanted it to be a small and elegant society affair. But the Kennedys swelled the guest list to more than 750, inviting everyone from commie-chasing Sen. Joe McCarthy to screen star Marion Davies. Still, Jackie, resplendent in her ivory silk chiffon gown and her grandmother’s rosepoint lace veil, had only one regret: Black Jack was too drunk to walk his daughter down the aisle. Uncle Hughdie stepped in and did the honors, then the newlyweds flew off for an Acapulco honeymoon.
From the start their life together was that mix of triumph and tragedy that the Kennedys would eventually raise to a national saga. JFK won election to the Senate in 1952; two years later he underwent life-threatening spinal surgery for a chronic back condition and was bedridden for months. Jackie had suffered a miscarriage before she became pregnant again in 1956. And again tragedy struck: a daughter was stillborn after Jackie had an emergency cesarean in her seventh month. In 1957, Caroline—JFK’s adored “Buttons”—was born.
By then, though, Jack had little time for his family. Tie was obsessed with attaining the White House—and, reportedly, with bedding a long list of women. Did Jackie know what was going on? Maxine Cheshire, who then covered the While House for The Washington Post, claims that she did. Recalling a British embassy party at which a European woman who was rumored to be having an affair with JFK was also a guest, Cheshire says, “Jackie was physically nervous and obviously miserable. She had her hair up, and her hairpins kept falling out. [Her Secret Service agent] Clint Hill kept picking them up.” Still, notes Jackie’s Washington socialite friend and author Susan Alsop, wife of the late political columnist Joseph Alsop, Jack was at heart a family man. “There was so much talk about his girls. But in a dire situation, it was Jacqueline he wanted.”
A MOMENT CALLED CAMELOT
Always reluctant to campaign, Jackie happily forsook stumping for Jack’s successful 1960 presidential bid because she was pregnant with John Jr., who was born that November. By January, however, she was ready for a new challenge. Restoring the dowdy residence-cum-museum to a state of grace and elegance became, along with raising her children, a top priority for the century’s youngest First Lady, who was a mere 31 when she moved in. Much to her husband’s consternation, she spent an estimated $2,000,000 (raised from sales of a guidebook and from donations) redoing everything from having the Blue Room painted white to replacing the china and stemware.
She made the social scene blossom too. Recalls journalist Gwen Gibson, who covered Mamie Eisenhower and then Jackie for the New York Daily News: “It was the difference between Guy Lombardo and Pablo Casals.” Some critics grumbled that the result was too highbrow, but Jackie’s chief of staff and White House social secretary; Letitia Baldrige, says, “She brought in a French chef, and nobody complained about that.” Indeed, an invitation to a White House evening became the hottest ticket in the nation. In February 1962 some 50 million American TV viewers watched Jackie’s personal tour of the redecorated White House.
America, and much of the world, could never get enough of Jackie. Her look became an international obsession, starting with the famous little beige coat with the sable collar and the pillbox hat she wore to JFK’s January 1961 Inauguration. “It was very cold, and all the other ladies had big fur coats and looked like bears roaming around,” says Oleg Cassini, her designer during her White House years. “And she looked so neat and pretty and young. You could do anything for her, and it would look good.” The Jackie bouffant was being duplicated in salons around the globe, and her gowns and charm enchanted De Gaulle and Khrushchev.
Jackie had her hair done four times a week by Norbert Amsellem, whose tony shop now lends to Tipper Gore. In the small White House salon, he wrapped Jackie’s hair in big rollers and put her under the dryer while he played with the kids. “She had beautiful hair,” says Ansellem, “thick and rich, and it was impossible not to make her look perfect.”
The cost of maintaining a National Beauty was an unscheduled expense that some critics in the press and the public found staggering. JFK, says Baldrige, was “a typical husband,” complaining about the bills, “but her public wanted her to look like a billion dollars.” Jackie once told a reporter, when asked about rumors that she and Rose spent $30,000 a year on French fashions, “I couldn’t spend that much even if I wore sable underwear.”
During their tenure, the Kennedys received some $2 million worth of state gifts, ranging from Thoroughbred horses to jewel-encrusted ceremonial swords. And when Jackie left the White House, she took most of the gifts with her, including a $75,000 leopard-skin coat from the Emperor of Ethiopia and a statue valued at more than $250,000 from Egypt’s President Nasser. (Several years later, Congress required that all gifts to the First Family from foreign governments worth more than $225 be sent to the National Archives.)
Though she enhanced the glamor of the While House almost beyond measure, Jackie worried continually about giving her children a “normal” life. Toward that end, she set up a nursery school for some 20 children, including Caroline, White House staffers and Georgetown friends, in the third-floor solarium. Says Susan Neuberger Wilson, who attended Vassar with Jackie and whose son was in a play group with Caroline during JFK’s Senate years: “I was always struck by her calmness and how clearly and simply she spoke to the children in this soft voice. She would say to me, I want John and Caroline to grow up to be good people.’ That truly was her goal.”
Or one of them, anyway; another was avoiding the press. After one state dinner, former Washington Post reporter Maxine Cheshire recalls, JFK grabbed Jackie’s arm and forced her to walk over to a group of women reporters standing in the doorway of the Blue Room. “He told her to say, ‘Goodnight, girls.’ She did—and not another word.” To snatch a little time for herself in what she called the fish-bowl of Washington, Jackie would occasionally dress down, once donning a wig and scarf, and sneak off to shop at Garfinkel’s department store on 14th Street. On other occasions Jackie would wail until the White House was closed to the public each day for cleaning at 1 p.m., then sneak downstairs. But, says Hugh Sidey, then TIME magazine’s White House correspondent: “There’s this notion that Jackie was morose, but that’s not true. She really enjoyed it.”
Jackie’s wicked sense of humor rarely failed her. It certainly delighted JFK, even when she mocked his own Boston-Irish accent (“Foah moah yeeahs”). Old friend Ben Bradlee, later executive editor of The Washington Post, once said of the First Couple, “They both so rarely show any emotion, except by laughter. They are the most remote and independent people we know.”
That changed dramatically in August 1963. More than seven months into yet another pregnancy, Jackie gave birth to a son, Patrick, who suffered respiratory distress syndrome, a lung complication that afflicts some premature babies. He died two days later, and when the tearful President broke the news to Jackie, she reportedly hugged him and said that the only thing that she could not bear would be to lose him too.
Of course, she did lose him, and she did bear what happened on Nov. 22, 1963. Even now, more than three decades later, Nellie Connally, wife of then Texas governor John Connally, who shared the President’s Dallas limousine, chokes up when she recalls for PEOPLE that ride into history. “The crowds were so enthusiastic and so loving,” she says. “We didn’t get to do much chatting because of the noise. But I was so pleased with our reception, I turned around in my seat and said, ‘Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.’ And just then the first shot rang out. Jackie screamed, ‘Jack, what have they done to you?’ ”
A few days later, Jackie stood on the steps of the White House, waiting to lead a funeral procession that included more than 40 world leaders. A world caught up in a nerve-racking Cold War was now focused entirely on the black-clad widow and her two small children. In those hours of confusion and grief, her rectitude never wavered. Said Charles de Gaulle, who marched behind the coffin: “She gave an example to the whole world of how to behave.”
MOURNING, MOTHERHOOD AND ARI
Even as she led the nation in grieving, Jacqueline Kennedy made sure her children didn’t forget joy. The very night of the funeral, she held a small party at the White House for John’s 3rd birthday. Later that week, there would be another party for Caroline, who turned 6. And it was the voice of a mother, more than that of a former First Lady, that was heard in the handwritten note she composed to LBJ the day after she had buried her husband. “Thank you for your letters to my children,” she wrote. “What these letters will mean to them later, you can imagine…. It cannot be of very much help to you, your first day of office, to hear children on the lawn al recess. It is just one more example of your kindness that you let them stay. I promise they will soon be gone.”
Gone from the White House, perhaps, but far from forgotten by reporters and tourists, who daily mobbed the Georgetown house to which Jackie and the children moved. “The crowds were too much,” recalls Letitia Baldrige. “Tour buses went by and said. ‘This is the home of Jacqueline Kennedy.’ It was just awful, so she got out of Washington.”
She moved in September 1964 to New York City, buying, for $200,000, a 15-room Fifth Avenue co-op. It was just a dozen blocks from the spacious apartment the Bouviers had kept during her childhood years, and it was here that she would live out the rest of her days. “The world is pouring terrible adoration at the feet of my children,” she’d once confided to her decorator Billy Baldwin, “and I fear for them, for this awful exposure. How can I bring them up normally?” To that end, she attended the children’s plays and recitals, phoned the mothers of Caroline’s classmates when she learned that, intimidated by the youngster’s fame, they weren’t inviting her to their parties, and took John and Caroline—as she would her grandchildren some 30 years later—for carousel rides in Central Park. There were more exotic forays as well—a seven-week vacation in Hawaii, skiing in Gstaad.
Jackie also traveled on her own—to Rome, Madrid and Paris—and while at home dined at Manhattan’s most fashionable restaurants—La Côte Basque, the Russian Tea Room, La Caravelle—with a number of prominent escorts: author Philip Roth, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, director Mike Nichols. “Taking you any-place is like going out with a national monument,” Nichols once said. “Yes,” Jackie retorted, “but isn’t it fun?” Apparently it was. Even in her pre-JFK days, says Baldrige, “she had more men per square inch than any woman I’ve ever known.”
By 1968, Jackie’s most serious suitor would turn out to be among the least likely: the short, paunchy, often rumpled Aristotle Onassis. Jackie’s romance with the Greek shipping tycoon, 23 years her senior, appalled the Kennedy clan. Bobby, who was running for President, begged her to end the romance, and Jackie agreed to put off talk of marriage until after the election.
Any lingering doubts she might have had about marrying Onassis vanished when Bobby was assassinated on June 5, 1968, just moments after he had won the California Democratic primary”. “I despise America,” a distraught Jackie told a friend. “If they are killing Kennedys, my children are the No. 1 targets. I want to get out of this country.” She did, on Oct. 20, when, in a small private ceremony, she wed Ari on the Greek isle of Skorpios. She was 39; he was 62.
The world recoiled, blasting her in headlines from Stockholm (“Jackie, How Could You?”) to Rome (“Jack Kennedy Dies Today for a Second Time”) to London (“Jackie Weds Blank Check”). Announced The New York Times: “The Reaction Here Is Anger, Shock and Dismay.” Among Jackie’s few defenders was Elizabeth Taylor. “I find Ari charming, kind and considerate,” she said. “I think that Jackie made an excellent choice.” Certainly it was a well-considered one; Ted Kennedy had negotiated with Onassis a prenuptial agreement that gave Jackie $3 million in cash before the two wed, plus $1 million for each of her children. Still, insists her longtime friend Joan Braden, “Jackie did not marry Ari for his money. He was fun and different and fell safe, and she was always looking for protection.” If anyone took the marriage lightly, it was Onassis, says Braden: “To him, she was just another bauble, whereas to us she was a great heroine.”
When it came to baubles, however, Onassis was no slouch. Among his gifts to his wife were a $1.25 million heart-shaped, ruby-and-diamond engagement ring and a $1 million 40.42-carat diamond ring from Cartier for her 40th birthday. Yet Though he had a fortune estimated at $500 million to $1 billion, Onassis was enraged by Jackie’s prodigious shopping. She was, said one Ari associate, “a speed shopper. She could be in and out of any store in 10 minutes or less, having run through $100,000 or more.” Truman Capote once recalled accompanying her on “one of those shop-till-you-drop sprees. She would walk into a store, order two dozen silk blouses in different shades, give them an address and walk out.” Once she bought 200 pairs of shoes in a single foray, running up a tab of $60,000. Incensed, Onassis cut his wife’s monthly allowance from $30,000 to $20,000. Jackie, however, didn’t cut down her shopping; she’d simply have the bills sent directly to Ari. Or she’d raise cash by selling her clothes—many never worn—on consignment to New York City thrift shops. The couple’s arguments over money escalated, their differences grew more apparent, and the two spent less and less time together. “They started with separate beds in the same bedroom,” Onassis’s colleague said, “and ended with separate beds on separate continents.”
By 1973 the two were barely speaking, and after his son Alexander died in a plane crash, the devastated Onassis sought comfort not from his wife but from opera diva Maria Callas, with whom he had already resumed his longtime affair. A year later, driven in part by his daughter Christina’s hatred of Jackie, he consulted lawyer Roy Cohn about a divorce.
Death intervened, however, when on March 15, 1975, Onassis died of bronchial pneumonia at a hospital in Paris. Jackie was in New York City, a 3,000-mile remove that suited both the protectors of Ari’s memory and those who cherish the myth of Camelot. In Greece, news of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s death barely made the newspapers. And at Jackie’s memorial service and funeral, the name Onassis was never spoken.
A FINAL MEASURE OF PEACE
Twice widowed by the age of 45, Jaequeline was never to marry again. “I have always lived through men,” she confided to a friend after Onassis’s death. “Now I realize I can’t do that anymore.” Instead, during her final decades, she lived for the things that truly mattered to her: her work and her loved ones.
In 1975 she look a job as a book editor, first at Viking and then, in 1978, at Doubleday. Until just a few weeks before her death, she went into her small, book-crammed New York City office three days a week. Though her colleagues were initially awed by the former First Lady in their midst, she charmed them by doling out Tootsie Rolls, sitting cross-legged on her office floor to go over manuscripts and munching on raw carrots and cucumber sandwiches at her desk. She also had a mischievous streak. “If she had someone into her office who was haughty and arrogant,” says Double-day deputy publisher Bill Barry, “Jackie was capable of doing a pretty fair imitation alter the meeting.”
The dozen books a year that she edited reflected her eclectic tastes—works on dance, French and Russian history, art, as well as children’s books by her friend Carry Simon and best-sellers by Michael Jackson and Bill Movers. “I learned never to second-guess what she’d be interested in,” says Doubleday editor Bruce Tracy, “because she was interested in just about everything.”
And everyone. “Whenever I met with her, I always fell as though I was the best writer she had read in at least a month,” says Manhattan writer Barbara Lazear Aseher. Jonathan Cott, who wrote four books for her, says, “When she got enthusiastic, you thought she was going to burst into song.” In fact, during moments of great delight, according to Scott Moyers, who worked with her, she would “rub her hands together and say, ‘Hot spit!’ ”
When Jacqueline ventured out into society in recent years, it was because she wanted to, attending book parties for her authors and battling to preserve New York City landmarks on behalf of the Municipal Arts Society, including the successful 1978 fight to save Grand Central from destruction.
More often, though, she pursued her own hobbies—yoga, jogging around the Central Park reservoir, and waterskiing, sailing and reading during the summers at her 464-acre Martha’s Vineyard estate. An accomplished equestrian, she went riding near her Bernardsville, N.J., home or in the Middleburg, Va., hunt country where she rented a cottage. She also kept John and Caroline foremost in her thoughts, talking about them, said a friend, “with gleams in her eyes.” John Loring, design director of Tiffany & Co., remembers how if Jacqueline did not approve of something, she would say, “Well, I wouldn’t want Caroline to do a thing like that.”
It was with Maurice Tempelsman that Jacqueline found her safest haven. An erudite diamond merchant whom she first met in the 1950s, Tempelsman, 64, has been steadily at her side for the past decade or so (though he is separated but not divorced from his wife, Lily), advising her on her children, on the menus for dinner parties and on her finances, reportedly quadrupling her $26 million settlement from the Onassis estate. “It’s probably the happiest relationship she’s ever had in her life,” a former colleague once said. “She looks to him for support and companionship. She looks to him to make decisions.”
She looked to her grandchildren to add light and joy to her later years and loved to baby-sit once a week for Rose, Tatiana and Jack. “She was so wonderful with them,” says her friend Rose Styron, a human-rights activist and the wife of writer William Styron. “She got such a kick out of watching them tumble and play together.” On the day she died, she and friends looked at last year’s snapshots from Jackie’s Labor Day picnic on Martha’s Vineyard and reminisced about teaching little Jack to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
In his eulogy last week, Ted Kennedy spoke of seeing yet another member of his family transformed into a mythic figure. “Jackie would have preferred to be just herself,” he said, “but the world insisted that she be a legend too.” Yet her most extraordinary accomplishment is that she managed, in the face of endless curiosity and adulation, to fashion a life of privacy and dignity for herself and her children. She looked forward to moving gracefully into old age with some good books to read and a growing brood of grandchildren to play with. The greatest sorrow, finally, is that this was denied her.
KAREN SCHNEIDER. J.D. REED, SHELLEY LEVITT and ELIZABETH GLEICK, with various bureau reports