Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***
Copyright © 2014 by Tina Santi Flaherty
Some may believe that there is such a thing as “the Kennedy Curse.” Violent deaths, personal destruction, and broken dreams have haunted the fabled family over the decades and have contributed to this belief. Whether this scourge actually exists is open to interpretation. There is no doubt, however, that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis could rightfully be called “the Kennedy Blessing.” indeed, America was blessed in a way it had never been before her tenure as First Lady. in sharing with us her love and protection of all things beautiful, she changed the way America was perceived at home and abroad. For more than four decades, Jackie—as we still fondly call her—captured our imaginations as no other woman has or probably ever will again in our time. Her death in 1994 seemed premature, and it still doesn’t seem fair that she’s gone. Twenty years later, her radiant smile and elegant spirit continue to live on and will forever be a part of American history.
Jackie had everything people admired and wanted for themselves—beauty, intelligence, adorable children, a life full of excitement and glamour, and, yes, a handsome husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We cannot think of Jackie without remembering Jack. Together they symbolized a poignant time in our nation’s history, when its innocence and optimism promised that anything was possible. They gave us hope and made us feel that each of us would be the best we could be.
The extraordinary life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was full of magic, both black and white. The most terrible tragedy that could ever be imagined happened to her. Her husband, the most powerful man in the free world, was murdered before her very eyes. She handled his death with a majesty that we will never forget. Our hearts ached as we tearfully reached out to her, young Caroline, and the little boy we called John-John. We loved Jackie when Jack was alive and continued to love her after he was gone. Admittedly, many of her admirers were temporarily thrown off base by her subsequent marriage to Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. After Onassis died, we resumed our unflagging adoration when she emerged as America’s most famous working woman. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was by no means a perfect person, but in our minds and memories, she was as close to perfection as few people ever will be.
Although I didn’t know Jackie personally, I happened to live in the same building in New York City. in 1989, my former husband and I purchased an apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue, the building to which Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis moved with her two children in 1964, after she left Washington, DC. With its magnificent views of Central Park and its large gracious apartments, 1040 Fifth was designed by the architectural genius Rosario Candela, who created some of New York City’s most prestigious buildings, including the grand art deco duplex at 740 Park Avenue where Jackie lived as a child. Located on the Upper east Side of Manhattan, near the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1040 Fifth Avenue is still special because to most people it’s where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis lived for the final thirty years of her life and it was there that she died in 1994 at the age of sixty-four.
As a neighbor, I observed Jackie from a faraway closeness— never wanting to encroach on her privacy. Once, her son, John, who was thirty-two years old at the time, approached me in the lobby as I was returning home from a chilly winter walk in Central Park with Liam, my yellow Labrador. “What’s it like to have a dog in a New York City apartment?” he asked, with an earnest, friendly smile on his handsome face. “It’s just fine,” I answered. “Dogs just want to be wherever you are.” It was an endearing encounter. I assumed he asked the question because he was thinking of getting a dog, which he subsequently did— an enormous German Shepherd named Sam, which he rescued from the pound.
As a woman who filled many roles in her life, Jackie’s enduring legacy lies in the choices she made. She handled happiness and heartache, incredible fame and wealth, and public demands and private needs with a remarkable discipline derived from a tremendous well of self-knowledge and acceptance. Indeed, Jackie taught the world, both women and men alike, many valuable lessons for which we may be forever grateful.
This book explores the unique path that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis took, which led to her overwhelming success, and examines those personal characteristics and traits that made it possible. Her life shows us that success is determined less by an inborn capacity than by focus, strategy, and passion. More important for us, Jackie laid out a road map for achievement.
While we need not aspire to the same heights she reached to learn from her extraordinary accomplishments, we can all enlarge and enrich our own personal universe by following her example in our own way.
Veiling Truth in Mystery
Liz Smith is a columnist and the author
of Natural Blonde.
In my sixty-odd-year career of writing about celebrities and the prominent, I’ve realized I’ve had the chance to observe the lives of five of the most famous and vital women of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries:
Marilyn Monroe, more famous now than when she died dramatically in 1962. Elizabeth Taylor, movie star of stars, and my friend, who left us in 2011. The still provocative pop queen deluxe Madonna, constantly pronounced “finished,” who made more money last year than her younger competitors. Princess Diana, declared the VIP most people would like to bring back to life after her tragic early death in 1997. And Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis—the most mysterious and inexplicable of them all—gone of illness in 1994.
Virgil wrote about “veiling truth in mystery,” and Jackie’s legacy has been just that.
This commemorative edition of What Jackie Taught Us, published on the twentieth anniversary of Jackie’s death, includes not only the insights from her life about how to live with poise, grace, and zest as Tina Flaherty articulated them but also the memories of her by a number of astute observers. But this book won’t pretend to solve the variousness, the depth of unusual ideas, theories, and contradictions about Jackie.
For she alone of the five maintained an almost impenetrable air of reticence and spiritual-psychic secrets. One way or another, the other four were flamboyant exhibitionists. But Jackie gave away only what she wanted people to know and think, and she left us always wanting more.
The world press almost went crazy because—though millions read the rumors that she was indifferent to infidelities, or promiscuous herself, and all the rest of her contradictions during her thousand days as First Lady—she gave up almost nothing. Her voice, downy and pillow soft, her televised tour of the White House with Charles Collingwood, her heroic behavior at the Dallas assassination, a final move to New York City to escape the public, the downhill phase of her marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and her private life as a book editor raising two first-rate children—Jackie never gave anything away.
If she did say something in a rare unintended interview—as with Teddy White and to William Manchester after JFK’s death—she soon relented and denied it. Or sued to keep it quiet. Even the indefatigable Barbara Walters, who won the elusive Katharine Hepburn, never got to ask Jackie what kind of a tree she’d like to have been.
Jackie didn’t exactly despise her fame; she just didn’t want to cooperate with it unless on her own terms. She evidently knew who she was, and she didn’t have to massage her ego or maintain and extend curiosity about herself. So she never did.
Thus the plethora of rumors continued: she spent a fortune on lingerie; she accepted a million to stay married to Jack; she had an affair with her brother-in-law; she told the famous writer Philip Roth when he dared kiss her cheek, “Oh, what did you have to do that for?” and dismissed him; she said or didn’t say to the Metropolitan Museum, “I don’t give a shit about the Temple of Dendur.”
She did protect her privacy to a large extent. Even the persistent Ron Gallela, deemed the “the godfather of U.S. paparazzi culture” by Time magazine, finally—and legally— had to keep his distance. (He says now she should have paid him for the iconic hair-blowing shot of her walking away looking mysterious!)
I, for one, kept my distance and declared her son and daughter off limits. I was told she read my columns with relish, and Lyndon Johnson aide Horace Busby told me she adored gossip and mostly looked on life as a kind of French film farce. She told our mutual pal Joe Armstrong that “the Kennedys will never forgive Liz Smith for writing about Jack and Judith Campbell Exner.” But she seemed not to include herself in their number.
In time, I was introduced to her at book parties after she became an editor. I would see her often at get-togethers, social and charitable. I always stayed away from her at these gatherings, but I got the impression that she would seek me out—ask in a friendly complimentary manner who did my hair or talk about our mutual avidity for books on Austrian and middle European history or her charitable interests, like saving grand Central Terminal. She even sent me nice hand-written notes when I mentioned her authors and books.
On the night I was given the Municipal Art Society Medal of Honor, I wondered if, as she hung the award around my neck, she might want to wring my neck instead. But she simply said, “Congratulations, Liz!” and moved on. She was the eternal sphinx.
Jackie is the star about whom I feel it has become almost pointless even to speculate. Usually humorous unless crossed, I am told she could turn as cold as ice and people were hard- pressed to know what they had done. According to her Secret Service man, Clint Hill, she was an angel, and he couldn’t do enough to please her. According to the recent biography These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack and Jackie by Chris Andersen, she was miserable at Jack’s infidelities but adjusted in the White House until tragedy struck. In Nemesis, Peter Evans’s book about Onassis, he reports that Jackie went to his funeral with a curious half-smile on her face, causing his daughter, Christina, to leap out of the car she was sharing with her father’s enigmatic widow. Jackie didn’t explain.
She never spoke for herself. She didn’t give interviews. The press and public had to do all the work. That is something like mining for gold—forever—without hitting pay dirt. But still, she seems rich in spirit and personality beyond our wildest dreams. It is only in dreams that she really exists and in our imaginations. She didn’t allow much of anything more.
At the end, her best personal revelation about her illness was only this: “Why did I bother to do all those push-ups and exercise before non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma!” She died as she had lived, privately, with family, friends, and her long-time companion, Maurice Tempelsman, by her side. Of her death, her son, John, said that she died “in her own way, on her own terms, and we all feel lucky for that.”
The most attractive, exasperating, intelligent, frustrating historical icon ever. She was the First Lady to end all First Ladies for never giving herself away.
It is twice as hard to crush a half-truth as a whole lie.
Many different perceptions exist about the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. One is that Jackie was merely a beautiful woman whose life was consumed with shopping and traveling to glamorous places. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As with many attractive women whose intelligence and accomplishments are often hidden behind their glamour and style, Jackie’s keen intellect was often obscured by her jet-setting image and her big, dark sunglasses. In 1962, a New York Times article grudgingly acknowledged Jackie’s intelligence with this comment: “It is now all right for a woman to be a bit brainy or cultured as long as she tempers her intelligence with a ‘t’rific’ girlish rhetoric.”
As a young woman, Jackie learned to conceal her intellect, perhaps believing her mother’s advice that men don’t like brainy women. When she met her husband-to-be, Jack Kennedy, she found that wasn’t necessarily true.
What Jackie achieved in her thousand days in the White House was monumental in scope. Through her style, her grace, and her impassioned support of the arts as well as her key role in historic preservation, she helped change the way America was perceived by the rest of the world.
Although Jackie was destined to be a major player on the world stage, she began her life in a very ordinary setting, a small hospital on the eastern shore of Long Island.
From the beginning, it appeared that Jackie somehow wanted to do things her way, even choosing the date of her birth. Due to arrive in mid-June, she was born six weeks later, on July 28, 1929, at the local hospital in the fashionable resort village of Southampton, about two hours from New York City. She was the first child of Janet Norton Lee and John “Jack” Vernou Bouvier III. Three months after her birth, the stock market crash of October 1929 occurred, turning the world upside down.
While only marginally affected by the depression, Jackie’s family soon suffered significant financial setbacks due to Jack Bouvier’s careless investments and indiscriminate spending habits, creating a major change in their lifestyle. Jackie and her sister, Lee, born four years later, were left with a lifelong feeling of insecurity and a deep fear of poverty despite their relatively comfortable existence.
Although Jackie was born into a privileged lifestyle, the Bouviers were not descended from French nobility, as her grandfather stubbornly claimed. Instead, their ancestors, who originated in southern France, had been tailors, farmers, and even domestic servants. The name Bouvier, while suggesting aristocratic lineage, actually means “cowherd.” Michel Bouvier, the family’s first immigrant to America, left France in 1815 after serving in Napoleon’s defeated army and settled in Philadelphia. Starting as a handyman, he later became a cabinet-maker and eventually a successful land speculator. His children and grandchildren prospered over the years, marrying into some of society’s leading families, including the Ewings, Sergeants, and Drexels.
Contrary to popular opinion, Jackie was more Irish than French, an important point to note, given the later emphasis on her French ancestry. Her mother, Janet Lee, was 100 percent Irish. The Lee family had arrived in America in 1852 from County Cork, Ireland, at the time of the potato famine. Janet’s maternal grandmother, Margaret Merritt, who cooked and cleaned for the Lee family, spoke with a thick Irish brogue, much to her granddaughter’s embarrassment.
Although Jackie’s father, John Vernou Bouvier III, had a surname that was totally Gallic, he was only one-quarter French, the rest being a mixture of Scottish and English. His daughter, Jackie, consequently, was only one-eighth French. His beloved mother, Maude Sergeant Bouvier, Jackie’s grandmother, would tease her adored son whenever he was naughty about the unwholesome French blood he had inherited from his father. Jackie’s cousin, John H. Davis, in his book, The Bouviers— Portrait of an American Family, describes an incident when Jack’s father found him in the barn, pricking his finger and squeezing out drops of blood. “When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was trying to squeeze all the naughty French blood out of himself,” writes Davis.
Mother Maude’s influence was no match, however, for that of her husband, John Vernou Bouvier Jr. The Major, as he preferred to be called, told his children and grandchildren that they were descended from the kings and queens of France, belonging to the noble house of Fontaine. He went so far as to have a book, Our Forbears, printed to reinforce his claims. Jackie, as a young girl, might easily have bought into the myth that her French ancestors were of royal blood, although historians have disproved this lineage.
Whether Jackie acknowledged these genealogical truths or not doesn’t really matter. Throughout her life she was an avid fan of history, realizing that the past offers lessons that can be applied to the present.
Even as a child, Jackie had a clear view of herself and a unique vision of life’s possibilities. Given the choice, she preferred the company of horses and dogs to people. Her love of literature also surfaced early on. Instead of playing with dolls, she turned to books and counted Byron, Robin Hood, and Scarlett O’Hara among her heroes. One of her teachers was amazed to learn that six-year-old Jackie even enjoyed reading Chekov’s short stories.
Jackie attended the best private schools, starting at age six at the Chapin School for Girls. Her fellow classmates remember her as one of the brightest in their group. As recounted in Mary Van Rensselaer Thayer’s book, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, one of her teachers there recalled that she was “the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic and full of the devil.” Unfortunately, none of these gifts helped ease her pain during the estrangement of her exacting mother and her hard-drinking, fast-spending, womanizing father.
Jackie’s true joy was horses and riding, through which she revealed an intensely competitive nature and a total distaste for defeat. Already a budding championship rider who had first sat on a horse at the age of two, the stables became a welcome retreat for her. She was encouraged by her mother, Janet, an accomplished rider who competed in horse shows throughout the Northeastern states. Having inherited Janet’s physical courage and love of competition, it was apparent that Jackie would be an excellent horsewoman. By age five, she had begun to compete and win blue ribbons on the riding circuit. In 1940, eleven-year-old Jackie won every event she entered in the under-twenty division, including two categories in the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden.
That same year her parents finally divorced. Her mother’s subsequent marriage in 1942 to a wealthy stockbroker, Hugh D. Auchincloss Jr., hurt Jackie deeply, as she adored her father, who felt the same way about her. Soon after the divorce, relatives noticed that Jackie began to withdraw into her own private world.
Later, Jackie attended Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, where she studied art history, literature, and drawing and earned As in French and Spanish. She attracted as much attention for her intelligence as for her beauty. When she graduated from Miss Porter’s, the yearbook recorded her stated ambition in life “not to be a housewife.”
Debutante of the Year
Jackie was accepted by Vassar College in 1947 after scoring in the highest possible percentile on her College Board exams. Just before the fall term began, Igor Cassini, the influential and widely read New York society columnist, named her “Debutante of the Year.” He glowingly described her as a “regal brunette who has classic features and the daintiness of Dresden porcelain.” He also enthused about her poise and intelligence. In an era when society still counted, this accolade put Jackie near the level of a Hollywood star. She became an overnight celebrity, enjoying a steady swirl of society balls and grand parties.
After the heady atmosphere of the “season,” she found life at Vassar, located in rural Poughkeepsie, New York, to be boring— even reportedly referring to it as “that damned Vassar.” Nonetheless, Jackie was an excellent student, earning A+ in both a Shakespearean course and the history of religion. Much to her family’s chagrin, Jackie decided not to attend Vassar for her junior year and applied to a program at Smith College for a year of study at the Sorbonne in France.
A Year in France
Jackie was accepted by Smith College’s foreign study program and went to France in August 1949 for her junior year. Although somewhat proficient in French, Jackie did not have full command of its finer points. She and a few of the other participants were first sent to an intensive six-week language course at the University of Grenoble, about three hundred miles from Paris. In October, she arrived in the City of Light and began courses at the Sorbonne, all taught in French with a concentration on French history and art.
Years later, in the White House, Jackie would draw upon her time in Europe, re-creating the legendary, sophisticated parties she had attended in Paris that had magically mixed politicians, artists, movie stars, and society notables.
Return to the States
With her horizons broadened by her European experience, Jackie was determined not to return to Vassar, even though her father begged her to remain near his New York City residence. Instead, in 1950, she decided to enroll at George Washington University in Washington, DC, near her mother and stepfather’s luxurious Virginia estate, Merrywood. Again, her independent thinking won out against the wishes of others.
While Jackie was completing work for her degree, she entered Vogue magazine’s annual Prix de Paris competition, a writing contest with a top prize of working for a year as a junior editor—six months in New York and six months in the Paris office. She won the competition over 1,279 other contestants.
Supposedly, Jackie’s first day of work at the Vogue office in New York was momentous. By midmorning, she had visited the personnel office and quit, saying that her mother felt strongly about keeping her at home. However, it is more likely, as one of her friends reported, that the decision was completely Jackie’s. Once she had a close-up look at the overwhelmingly female environment of Vogue, it simply confirmed an early suspicion that the fashion world was not the best place for her—especially if she wanted to find a suitable man to marry.
Jackie, who was primarily dependent on her father’s financial support, was always strapped for cash. After graduation from college in 1951, she badly needed a job to supplement her meager monthly allowance from him. Although Jackie’s wealthy stepfather, Hugh D. Auchincloss Jr., paid for few of her day-to- day expenses, he was generous with his connections. Through him, she was able to secure an interview at the Washington Times-Herald, a lively, impertinent newspaper that was outselling both the Washington Post and Evening Star at the time. It also had the reputation of readily hiring attractive girls with modest expertise. At her interview with the city editor, Jackie was told that she could have the job of Inquiring Photographer if she managed to learn how to use a Speed Graphic camera by the following day. After an intense tutorial with the staff photographer, she got the job, beginning in January 1952 at $25 a week. Ironically, Kathleen Kennedy, Jack’s sister, had once held the same job, as had Jack’s former girlfriend, the voluptuous Inga Arvad, affectionately known as “Inga Binga” to Jack.
At about the same time, Jackie became engaged to John Husted, a family friend. Socially prominent, he had an impeccable WASP background and a promising career on Wall Street. Their engagement was announced in January 1952. Almost immediately, however, Jackie had serious reservations. In truth, she did not want the life of an ordinary New York matron and, given her large ambition, was also not eager to be the wife of a traditional Wall Street businessman.
Although being the newspaper’s Inquiring Photographer was not an intellectually demanding job, it required considerable creativity on Jackie’s part, as her assignment was to ask people on the street or in their offices about a topic of the day and photograph them. In typical Jackie fashion, she took great care to prepare interesting, often personal questions to provoke equally interesting answers. She took her job seriously and wanted her column to reflect favorably on her. Once she posed the question, “Do you think a wife should let her husband think he’s smarter than she is?” And “Chaucer said that what most women desire is power over men. What do you think women desire most?” She asked two other questions that were ominously prescient:
“Which first lady would you most like to have been?”
“What prominent person’s death affected you most?”
Jackie and Jack
The job suited Jackie well, and it provided access to new and influential people. Using her newspaper column as a cover, she called tall, good-looking Jack Kennedy, then a senator, whom she had met at a dinner party in 1951. Since that first meeting, she had heard many stories about Jack Kennedy at the Times-Herald, including his war heroics and the fact that women found him irresistible.
Jackie’s interview with the charismatic senator brought her to his attention again. Many people in Kennedy’s office felt Jackie’s column played a prominent part in rekindling their relationship. Within a short time she broke her engagement to John Husted, and the Bouvier/Kennedy romance took on a more serious note. According to Jack’s prep school friend, Lem Billings, Jackie was more intelligent, literary, and substantial than most of the other young women Jack dated. She also had a certain classiness that Jack found very attractive.
As for Jack himself, he was any woman’s dream come true. A popular three-term congressman and then a senator, he was intelligent, witty, and extremely wealthy. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, former ambassador to the Court of St. James in London, was the twelfth richest man in America, having a net worth that Fortune magazine estimated at $400 million—the equivalent of several billion dollars in today’s money. They had homes in Boston, New York, Palm Beach, and Cape Cod. What more could a woman want?
Jackie and Jack began seeing each other more often, and in January 1953, she was Jack’s date at the inaugural ball of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. So taken was she that Jackie began sending Jack nutritious gourmet meals to his office to express her concern over his poor eating habits, along with buying him special books and doing everything she could to get his attention. Still, Jack showed no signs of proposing, much to Jackie’s disappointment. But now it was Jackie’s turn to play hard to get. Surprising Jack, she told him that she was taking an unexpected trip to London to cover the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Leaving for England on May 22, 1953, the trip provided an excellent opportunity for Jackie to consider if she wanted to marry Jack after all. Cautioned by several trusted male friends about Jack’s womanizing, she hoped that, once married, he would cease this behavior. Additionally, she knew that her life with him would always be interesting and that he also had the necessary financial resources to overcome her primal fear of poverty. As her former beau Demi Gates said, “. . . she was absolutely obsessed with poverty.” Another male friend said, “She had an insecurity about money, a fear of going back to being poor.” Her mother, who was forced to work in a New York City department store after her divorce to help support herself and her two daughters before her marriage to Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr., continuously reinforced this concern. Janet Auchincloss had experienced life at both ends of the scale, with and without money. She was adamant that her daughters marry into “real” money.
Besides possessing wealth, Jackie wanted a husband who stimulated her mentally. Jack was a great conversationalist with an intellectual curiosity that appealed to Jackie. They shared a common love of books that they would enjoy throughout their lives. His reputation as a playboy did not concern Jackie, perhaps because she idolized her father, who had the same propensity. Jack had already decided that Jackie, with her “cool reserve, humor, and intelligence,” would be the least likely woman to bore him. Their shared Catholic religion was important, too. In early June, when Jackie returned from London, Jack met her plane. Their engagement was announced on June 24, 1953.
Marriage to Jack
On September 12, 1953, Jackie Bouvier and Jack Kennedy were married at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. The wedding was stage-managed by Joe Kennedy, who saw it as an opportunity to further his son’s political career. He was happy to pay for the event after convincing Jackie’s mother, Janet, to disregard her daughter’s wish for a small, simple wedding. Joe had crammed nine hundred guests into a church meant to hold only seven hundred and invited fourteen hundred to the reception—as well as dozens of photographers, reporters, and columnists.
Jackie wasn’t even able to wear the kind of wedding gown she preferred. Favoring something simple with straight lines that would complement her tall, trim figure, she wore, instead, a traditional dress with a huge bouffant skirt because Jack’s family wanted something more ornate. Later, she told a friend that she thought it made her look “like a lampshade.” It was one of the rare occasions when the dress wore Jackie, not the other way around.
It was not a totally happy day for Jackie because her beloved father was reportedly too hungover to walk her down the aisle. There is some speculation that Janet had deliberately caused this. Rumor has it that she sent her son-in-law, Michael Canfield, who was married to her daughter Lee, to visit and drink with Jack Bouvier at his hotel the night before the wedding. Whether Janet asked Canfield to deliberately get him drunk is not definitively known. However, it was common knowledge that Jack Bouvier had a serious drinking problem and Janet did not want to take any chances, as she knew the wedding of her daughter to the handsome, young senator would be reported in great detail by the nation’s press.
According to Jackie’s sister, Lee, “My mother had written him [Jack Bouvier] telling him she hoped he realized that he was far from welcome and that he might change his mind and decide not to come, and she felt that this would be a far more appropriate thing for him to do.” As was her penchant, Jackie concealed the hurt the episode caused her, instead displaying the courage and self-discipline for which she would later become famous.
Now married to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, she embarked on a journey that would take her from being a senator’s bride to the world stage as the wife of the thirty-fifth President of the United States. Yet the greatest joys of her life would come from motherhood, with the birth of Caroline in 1957, followed by John Jr. in 1960.
Sadly, Jackie’s marriage to Jack Kennedy ended ten years later with his assassination in 1963. Later, she would marry one of the world’s richest men, Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. Their turbulent relationship ended with his death in 1975. Never to marry again, Jackie found fulfillment and happiness with Maurice Tempelsman, her long-time companion.
Planning for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum began immediately after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. From the beginning, Jackie was heavily involved in the development of the library, which opened its doors in 1979 in Columbia Point at Boston’s waterfront. Jackie had a say in every element of the library, from fundraising to organizing exhibits and choosing the location and design of the building. It was her decision to use I. M. Pei as the architect, although he was relatively unknown and inexperienced at the time. She selected him over other better-known architects because she admired his individuality and once commented that she saw in Pei great promise and potential that reminded her of her late husband.
In 1975, Jackie became involved with the Municipal Art Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to historic preservation in New York. Her participation, perseverance, and celebrity status are credited for saving Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s most important and beautiful buildings, from the wrecking ball. She was also instrumental in bringing the ancient Temple of Dendur from Egypt to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Career as an Editor
Jackie had a lifelong passion for reading, and it is not surprising that after her marriage to Aristotle Onassis ended, she chose to devote herself to work in the publishing industry. Beginning in 1975, Jackie enjoyed a successful career as a book editor. Among the hundred books she edited covering a wide range of topics, from fashion to history to photography to religion, were such bestsellers as Moonwalk by Michael Jackson, Carly Simon’s children’s books, several works by Bill Moyers, and a trilogy by the Nobel Prize–winning, Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz. Books were vital to Jackie. She once told Joe Armstrong, a friend and editor himself, “These [books] are my other best friends.” Upon her death in May 1994, John Kennedy Jr. announced that his mother passed on “surrounded by her friends and her family and her books and the people and things that she loved.”
Jackie lived her life with poise, grace, and zest, regardless of any pain or disappointment. In her own words, which are quoted in Andrew Roberts’s essay on self-awareness:
We must give to life at least as much as we receive from it. Every moment one lives, is different from the next. The good, the bad, the hardship, the joy, the tragedy, love and happiness are all interwoven into one single indescribable whole that is called life. You cannot separate the good from the bad. And, perhaps there is no need to do so either.