Nancy Tuckerman, who was Jacqueline Kennedy‘s former social secretary and lifelong friend, died Wednesday from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Salisbury, Connecticut. She was 89.
Tuckerman served as Kennedy’s social secretary when she was the first lady and continued on as her spokesperson until Kennedy’s death in 1994.
During her brief time as social secretary, starting in the spring of 1963, Tuckerman helped Kennedy through multiple tragedies, including the death of the Kennedys’ newborn son, Patrick, shortly after birth; and the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Tuckerman later reflected on the first lady’s composure in the wake of her son’s death, The New York Times reported.
“She was very much in command of herself, aside from the shock,” Tuckerman said in a 1964 oral history recorded for the John F. Kennedy Library. “Obviously she was in a certain amount of shock, but she could operate and she could make sense, and she realized that she had to make certain decisions, and she did them simply beautifully.”
Less than four months later, after JFK was assassinated, Tuckerman kept the president’s heartbroken staff focused on funeral arrangements and plans to move Mrs. Kennedy out of the White House.
“Nobody collapsed, and you never discussed anything — never said ‘Why are we doing this’ or ‘Who do you suppose shot the president’ or ‘Who is doing what job?’,” Tuckerman said in the oral history. “You just had so much to do that you never stopped to talk to anybody. At least that’s the way I felt.”
Tuckerman, who first met Kennedy when they were 8- or 9-year-old students at the Chapin School in Manhattan, remained close to Kennedy after leaving the White House. Tuckerman continued on as a spokesperson for the former first lady and the Kennedy family until Kennedy died on May 19, 1994 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Tuckerman, who was portrayed by actress Greta Gerwig in the 2016 film Jackie, also worked closely with Kennedy when they were book editors at Doubleday in the 1970s and 1980s.
Tuckerman was vigilant about protecting Kennedy’s privacy even in her final days.
Just a few weeks before Kennedy’s death, Tuckerman told reporters asking about her hospitalization: “She goes in for routine visits, routine treatment. That’s what this is.”
She later admitted that she had downplayed Kennedy’s illness to avoid media attention.
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“I said what I thought was appropriate,” she told The New York Times on the day of Kennedy’s death. “We were trying to protect her and the children, because they could not make visits with ease.”