JFK Jr.'s Inner Circle Shares Never-Before-Seen Photos & Touching Memories
John F. Kennedy Jr. died in 1999 in a plane crash that also killed his wife and her sister. Here, friends remember the man behind the famous last name, who would have turned 60 on Wednesday
A Forever Bond
John first met his dear friend Sasha Chermayeff at Andover, the elite boarding school he attended as a teenager. Pictured: John and Sasha in 1992.
"John always carried a lot of responsibility and weight," Chermayeff says. "I think he had his share of burdens. But in a manner that seemed fearless, he sought out a real life."
"No one will ever live a life like John F. Kennedy Jr," says Gillon, a historian, author of America's Reluctant Prince and a friend of John's since John's time at Brown University.
"There's probably no one who's ever walked the earth that was the focus of media attention their entire life," says Gillon of John, seen here in 1978 at Andover.
A Life of Promise
"There's many layers to the tragedy of his death," Gillon says.
John, pictured on Martha's Vineyard in 1992, "had spent his life trying to figure out who he was and what he wanted to do," Gillon says. "And he finally figured it out in those last couple of years. He discovered that his calling was to go into politics."
A Loving Heart
John was the godson to Chermayeff's son Phineas. (They are pictured here in 1993.)
"Although there is pain and endless sorrow, I am always so glad to think of him, so glad I got to really know him and I feel blessed by that remarkable twist of fate," Chermayeff says.
No Shirt, No Problem
John (in 1992 on Martha's Vineyard) was often teased by pals about his love of showing off his body.
"He had all the physical attributes of a body builder," says Gillon, "but he was a really sensitive caring person inside."
'Alive to the Fullest'
John (here in 1998 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, with Phillip Howie, Chermayeff's husband) "was openhearted, compassionate, warm," Chermayeff says.
He was "alive to the fullest."
Soaking Up the Sun
John in the summer of 1993 on Martha's Vineyard with actress Daryl Hannah, whom he dated off and on for several years.
Raised in the spotlight, John carried his fame with natural ease, friends say. Here he is seen goofing off at a dinner party with Chermayeff (right) and her sister, Maro, in 1991.
But, says Gillon, "John did not just lead a charmed life. He led a complicated life."
John, with Sasha (right) and a few friends in New York City in 1988.
"John did things with his male friends — ski trips, kayaking, and many travels — but he confided in his female friends, especially Sasha," says Gillon, who befriended John after he became John's teaching assistant in a history class John attended at Brown.
John (seen here with Chermayeff in 1988) "was also the best person to get advice from," Gillon says. "He had spent a lot of time analyzing himself and, in doing so, he had a better sense of other people."
A Fond Regard
Chermayeff (here with John in 1991 at her birthday party) was close to both him and his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.
"John and Carolyn were wonderful people," she says. "They fell in love and had a stunning, dream-like wedding. I don't know what would have come to pass ... no one does."
A Friend Remembers
Chermayeff tells PEOPLE she hopes that "by sharing my images, people can see a genuine, loving and kind nature that was both John and Carolyn." (The couple is pictured here on Martha's Vineyard in 1996.)
"I sincerely hope people can enjoy the photos and see a taste of something unique in all the perfection and imperfection that was their life," Chermayeff says.
The Way They Were
From left: Carolyn and John on the beach at Martha's Vineyard with Chermayeff's son, Phineas, in 1996.
- How The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun Went from Zombie Slayer to Oscar Contender in Minari
- 1000-Lb. Sisters’ Tammy Slaton Is ‘Even More Depressed’ After She Hits 665 Lbs.
- Pamela Anderson Lists $15M Malibu Home After Surprise Wedding: 'It's Time I Went Back to My Roots'
- Lori Loughlin Is 'Very Focused' on Community Service Months After Prison Release, Source Says