I’ve always had a fascination with Jackie O. I have a fascination in general with American life and culture during the post-war era, circa 1950s-60s. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, to me, seems to encapsulate that time period.
For all her glamour, intelligence, and poise, Jackie Kennedy was no stranger to sorrow. When she passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994, she had been widowed twice and was working as a book editor for Doubleday. The former First Lady and husband of President John F. Kennedy had always had a passion for reading and writing and, in the years before she met the senator who would become her husband, had worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C.
Senator Ted Kennedy was tasked with giving the eulogy at her funeral, which he did very elegantly. In a little over 900 words, he was able to shine a light on the bright and intelligent spirit that she was, while also giving respect where it was due to the heavy sorrows she so graciously carried throughout much of her life.
“She had a wonderful sense of humor, a way of focusing on someone with total attention, and a little girl delight in who they were and what they were saying. It was a gift of herself that she gave to others. And in spite of all her heartache and loss, she never faltered.”
Her heartache in life was indeed very great. Born in 1929, she had a difficult childhood that sometimes seeped its way back into her adult life. In 1956 her first child, a daughter named Arabella, was born still. She dealt with demoralizing tabloid rumors about her husband’s alleged affairs while still raising their two children under the spotlight of a critical nation. In August 1963 she lost another child, their son Patrick, when he was two days old. She subsequently developed depression (“melancholy after the death of my baby”), and was ultimately traumatized only three months later by President Kennedy’s violent assassination. She would later marry her longtime friend, the Greek shipping tycoon Ari Onassis, and move her young family to Greece until his death in 1975.
She would never marry again, but after moving back to New York Jackie Onassis kept a companionship with businessman Maurice Tempelsman until her death. Mercifully, she would not live to see the tragic death of her eldest son, John F. Kennedy, Jr.
She is interred at Arlington National Cemetery with her first husband, John F. Kennedy, and her children Arabella and Patrick, under the eternal flame. In 2015 I was able to visit this sacred ground with my Aunt Debbie, and we took this snapshot:
If you want to read more about Jackie Kennedy, here are a couple of links that may be of interest!