Providencia Paredes, the aide to former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, passed away on March 18. She was 90.
As the First Lady’s loyal attendant, she spent three-and-a-half years at her side and they became lifelong friends.
Paredes, nicknamed “Provi,” was one of the innermost circle of staffers to former President John F. Kennedy and the First Family. As Onassis’s daily companion, she managed her legendary wardrobe and together, they traveled the globe to France, India, Pakistan, Italy, Cambodia, Turkey and Thailand, to name a few. Her unique charm, discretion and impeccable taste gained her admiration and love from the extended Kennedy clan.
Two days before Kennedy’s fateful trip to Dallas, the President told Paredes what his wife would need for the trip. It was their last conversation. After the assassination, Paredes was by his widow’s side when she returned to the White House. “I thought they were going to kill me too,” Onassis confided to her.
Paredes went on to work for Kennedy’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy, and was at the Ambassador Hotel the night of his assassination on June 5, 1968. She accompanied his widow, Ethel Kennedy, on the funeral train carrying his coffin from New York to Washington D.C.
“Provi was an amazing woman whose big heart, quick wit, thoughtful generosity and caring spirit will be dearly missed,” said Ethel, who also remained close to Paredes.
Paredes came to America from her native Dominican Republic in the late 1940s with only a seventh grade education. A divorcee, she raised her two sons, Hector Corporan (from her first marriage) and Gustavo Paredes (from her second marriage) while serving the First Family.
“She was a beacon for the Dominican Republic,” her son Gustavo tells PEOPLE. “From the humblest of beginnings, she went to the White House. She was a woman from Latin American who worked at the side of the President and The First Lady.”
Paredes remained a close friend to Onassis and a grandmotherly figure to her children. She was especially close to John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette. “We’d share many Thanksgivings together,” Paredes told PEOPLE last year. “John wanted me to tell Carolyn about his mother. We used to stay up late and I told them stories about his parents at the White House.”
Paredes was waiting for JFK Jr. at his house in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, on July 16, 1999, the night he, Bessette and her sister, Lauren, were killed in a plane crash off the coast.
Throughout her long life she remained loyal to the Kennedy family whose life was so interwoven with her own. She always focused on the good times, not the sad.
“She was a witness to history,” says her beloved son, Gustavo. “I am proud to be her son.”