John F. Kennedy Jr: A Friend Remembers

On the tenth anniversary of his death, a childhood pal shares touching personal memories

On July 8, 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr. had dinner with one of his closest friends, Sasha Chermayeff, at a friend’s apartment in Manhattan. As they walked home, they talked about the future, and John turned to his friend and said: “I really want to have a child.”

Eight days later, Kennedy was dead at 38. Disoriented due to poor visibility on a hazy night, he lost control of the plane he small was piloting, with his wife, Carolyn Bessette, 33, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, 34, as passengers, and crashed into the Atlantic.

As the tenth anniversary of his death approaches on July 16, Chermayeff, IDTK, is sharing her memories with PEOPLE. “Why not remember him happy?” she asks.

Ready for a Family

Chermayeff recalls a man who was ready to “step up to the plate to a very large legacy.” Following the family’s footsteps into politics was a definite possibility. And having kids was definitely on his mind.

“He would have been a great father,” says Chermayeff, a mom of two children, Phineas, 16, and Olivia, 13. (John was godfather to Phineas.) “I think that seeing us with our children made him think, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ ”

After John broke his ankle in a paragliding accident on Memorial Day weekend that year, he told Chermayeff that he planned to take it easy for the rest of the summer and spend time with his cousin, Anthony Radziwill, who was dying of cancer. “This was going to help him face what was coming, the death of his close friend and cousin,” she recalls. Sadly, however, it was not to be. “He was really poised for the next part of his life,” says Chermayeff. “And then he was gone.”

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