The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women

The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women

by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff


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The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff

Rosemary Kennedy, younger sister of President John F. Kennedy, was lobotomized in 1941 at age 23. In 1959, she was put out of public view at a remote facility in rural Wisconsin, where, for more than twenty years, she remained unvisited by family and non-family alike, until 1962.

Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff (Liz) and her parents were likely the first non-Kennedy family members to visit Rosemary following her lobotomy. Liz was niece to Rosemary’s caretaker, Sister Paulus, a Catholic nun at St. Colleta, and she visited Rosemary on a regular basis for the next thirty-four years. Through their friendship, Liz discovered the person many had forgotten or never known.

In 2015, ten years after Rosemary’s death, Liz came forward with a fascinating book about the hidden daughter of America’s royal Kennedy family. “The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women” is truly unique. It is an eyewitness account of Rosemary’s post-lobotomy years, the first published by a non-family member, and it’s augmented by nearly 100 never-before-seen pictures of Rosemary after she was lobotomized.

Liz can shed considerable light on so many questions, the four biggest being:

  • Why did no one visit Rosemary for more than two decades?
  • What quality of life did Rosemary lead after her lobotomy?
  • What should have been the correct diagnosis of Rosemary’s pre-lobotomy condition?
  • And in what ways did immense good come from Rosemary’s tragic life?
  • This touching story of the intersection of two families will leave you with a unique portrait of the missing, but not forgotten, Kennedy.

    Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9781610881746
    Publisher: Bancroft Press
    Publication date: 10/01/2015
    Pages: 270
    Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

    About the Author

    The author of nine books, including a Writer’s Digest Selection for The ABCs of Writing for Children, Liz has now written an adult memoir, The Missing Kennedy (Bancroft Press), which will be out in 2015.

    A former Byline Magazine "Writing for Children" columnist, Liz wrote frequent humor pieces for the San Francisco Examiner as well as hundreds of articles and essays in newspapers and magazines such as Parents Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and Parenting.

    With degrees in Liberal Studies and Theater Arts/Children’s Theater and two teaching credentials, she’s directed plays and taught elementary, middle school students, and teachers. A speaker for international and state conferences, she presents assemblies and workshops for schools and libraries.

    Born in rural Wisconsin, Liz moved to California for all her college and post-graduate education, and has lived most of her adult life in the San Francisco area. She’s married, and has one grown child.

    Visit her blog for writing advice, ideas, and anecdotes, contact her at, or visit her at her website,

    Table of Contents

    Rosemary's Childhood 1

    My Aunt Stella 11

    First Homes 23

    England 37

    Rosemary and Stella in Their Twenties 45

    Stella Becomes Sister Paulus 57

    Rosemary's Surgery 63

    Aunt Zora 79

    Craig House 89

    Uncle Nick 93

    Rosie at Saint Coletta 101

    Faith 123

    Tragedy 125

    My Misdiagnosis 133

    Eunice 143

    Rosie Gets Lost 149

    Sex Ed and Silence 153

    The Koehler Brand of Claustrophobic Catholicism 159

    Rosie's Three Families 163

    Standing Out 183

    The Special Olympics 201

    Epilogue 213

    Events and Memories 217

    Appendices 231

    Bibliography 251

    Photo Credits 253

    About the Author 259

    Customer Reviews

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    The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Save your money unless you want a biography of the author's family, along with comparing what Rosie was thinking versus the authors family member! You will be reading and all of a sudden the whole next chapter is about the author's family history! Craziest writing I have ever read. Obvious the author was lacking enough material to write this sham of a historical book! I feel cheated and sad for the made up "facts" about Rosemary!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    What a dissapointment ! I had to go to the cover to make sure I was reading about Rosemary Kennedy.I didn't expect to be reading about the authors family. One downside of reading on a Nook ... If this had been a real book i would have returned it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I bought this book expecting to learn more about Rosemary Kennedy. I Certainly didn't expect page after page of the author's family history. Don't waste your money on this book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I would have returned it if I had purchased it in hard cover. Miss leading, more about the interactions of the authors family with Rosemary, than about Rosemary. I want a refund.
    KS113 More than 1 year ago
    The Missing Kennedy provides an in depth look into Rosemary Kennedy's botched lobotomy and history with mental illness. The memoir also seamlessly blends Rosemary's life as well as the author's life, since the author's aunt was Rosemary's primary caretaker at St. Coletta, a mental institution. The memoir is an easy read, with pictures and accurate descriptions of mental illness during the early 1900's. I don't see why a secondary source would be more desired, since this memoir focuses on the direct testimony of the author's aunt, as well as the author's time spent with Rosemary. The author provides a close look into how Rosemary actually looked, felt, and lived. It's also necessary to the story to blend the two lives together, and explain how the author and Rosemary's families intersected during a time period where women were not free, and mental illness bore a big stigma. The overall goal of the memoir is established: the memoir leaves us with Rosemary's legacy, which the author exceptionally describes. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what Rosemary's life was like, as well as the graphic horrors of the early 1900's experimental procedures.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    “Renders in painstaking and heartbreaking detail the story of JFK's intellectually disabled oldest sister, her efforts to fit in to the ambitious Kennedy clan, and the lobotomy that left her permanently incapacitated at the age of 23. And although mental illness remains shrouded in shame for many, to read Rosemary's story is to be reminded of how the perception and treatment of mental illness has evolved over the past 70 years.” ―VICE MEDIA
    BookPublishingVeteran More than 1 year ago
    “Such a touching book!” ―PEOPLE MAGAZINE “Aunt Rosemary inspired so many to work against injustice and ignorance. Her struggle and her immense legacy will be felt and celebrated by reading this exceptional book." ―BOBBY SHRIVER “Fascinating story!” ―BBC WORLD NEWS SERVICE (CLAIRE MARSHALL, “NEWSDAY”) “The Missing Kennedy is truly a fascinating story.” ―PARIS MATCH “Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff's aunt, Sister Paulus, became one of Rosemary's caregivers at St. Coletta. Koehler-Pentacoff's memoir recounts their relationship, and the author's visits with both women. Rosemary's privacy at St. Coletta was closely guarded; this book offers details and friendly anecdotes about the late Kennedy's daily life in Wisconsin. She brings to her memoir a sense of compassion gained through experiences with family members with mental illnesses.” ―MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL “Anyone in the world who’s interested in the famous Kennedy family will find this fascinating memoir to be essential reading. Rosemary Kennedy was the least known member of the family but, it turns out, one of the most significant in the big scheme of things. If you don’t read The Missing Kennedy, you won’t know a critical and enlightening part of the Kennedy story.” ―DR. ABE BORTZ, AMERICAN HISTORIAN
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Sugar coats the way her parents really treated her and completely ignores the fact that they were deeply ashamed of her and refused to admit publicly that she was "different" or that they were proud supporters of eugenics. If it had not been for Eunice Kennedy Shriver poor Rosemary would have been forgotten by her family. Rose Kennedy only acknowledged Rosie's disabilities when it became socially acceptable for her to do so and still was deeply ashamed of hrr and constantly lamented the fact that she lost threevsons who could of done great things and was left with Rosemary who had no reason or purpose and could never contribute to society. Also the book seems to be written for eight year olds. Very poor writng style.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I was excited to learn about Rosemary Kennedy but disappointed that there was so much information on the author and her family. I wish it was more concentrated on Rosemary.
    LizBookReviews More than 1 year ago
    This book was written by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff whose aunt Stella Koehler was a nun and was Rosemary Kennedy's caregiver for approximately 35 years. Everyone is familiar with Rosemary Kennedy's lobotomy, but they probably don't know what happened next. This is Rosemary's story, intertwined with stories from Koehler-Pentacoff's family. Rosemary's story needed to be told and kudos for Koehler-Pentacoff for sharing it! This book does truly tell Rosemary's history, starting with her mother's pregnancy and labor story. Rosemary was behind academically as a result of her birth and the nurses instructions to her mother. Koehler-Pentacoff includes stories of her family because she believes that there is a connection between her family and that of Rosemary Kennedy that goes beyond her aunt being Rosemary's caregiver. Koehler-Pentacoff draws comparisons between her aunt deciding to become a nun and Rosemary's life. She states that her aunt "would face a new life of restrictions, some like those that confined Rosemary Kennedy. But unlike Rosemary, Steller Koehler had a choice about the shape her life would take." The comparisons continue with the family history of depression that plagued Koehler-Pentacofff's family. It was something her family really did not discuss, just like the Kennedy's did not discuss Rosemary for two decades. The author also describes an illness she gained as a result of an accident in a high school physical education course. The author remained hidden while she suffered from the illness, which also caused her to make the similar comparisons to Rosemary Kennedy. This book is filled with never before seen photos that any history lover or Kennedy-phile will thoroughly enjoy. I have read numerous books about the Kennedy family but still was not very familiar with Rosemary Kennedy until I read this book. Every other book I have read about the Kennedy family only mentions Rosemary in passing and probably only attributes approximately a paragraph about her in the entire book. As a result, prior to reading this book I only knew that Rosemary was behind academically, had temper tantrums, and had a lobotomy at the request of her father which left her significantly disabled. I was excited to read this book because it seemed it would offer new information about Rosemary Kennedy, and I did learn a lot more about Rosemary through reading this book. I highly recommend it! Five out of five stars.
    Jeannemm More than 1 year ago
    Rosemary Kennedy, the third child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy and developmentally delayed, was subjected at age 23 to a prefrontal lobotomy, at the time a new experimental surgery. It had catastrophic consequences for her. Instead of curing her emotional outbursts, her belligerence, and her physical seizures, it left her partially paralyzed and unable to talk, walk, or perform basic personal care. She was sent to a psychiatric hospital and then, eventually to a care facility in Wisconsin, run by nuns. Here she was assigned to the care of Sister Paulus, the author's aunt, and here her condition began to improve. In this memoir we get the story of Rosie Kennedy and the story of Sister Paulus, which were parallel in many ways. As the title suggests, we also learn about the important interactions of those two with the author, who, from the time she was four years old, visited Rosie and Sister Paulus regularly. And we learn of the involvement of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Rosie's younger sister, who, along with her mother and siblings, only learned of Rosie's whereabouts 20 years after the lobotomy. She was instrumental in integrating Rosie back into the Kennedy family, with mutual visits to Wisconsin and Massachusetts. She was also inspired by Rosie to start Camp Shriver for children with special needs. This camp evolved into The Special Olympics. The author explores mental illness in her own family and provides insight into the treatment of the mentally ill over the years. Using the private notes of her aunt, Sister Paulus, and interviews with members of the Shriver family, she's able to illuminate the life of the least known member of the Kennedy family. It's a touching story
    Nanette McGuinne More than 1 year ago
    In her engaging memoir, Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff focuses on illness--mental, emotional, physical--and religious faith, both in her own family and also in one of the most iconic families in America, the Kennedy family. Koehler-Pentacoff tells us about her beloved aunt, Sister Paulus (Rosemary Kennedy's caretaker) and about visiting both of them regularly. Along the way, Koehler-Pentacoff provides readers born after around 1960 with a fascinating snapshot of societal attitudes and mores of the time, and she includes numerous rare photos for readers to enjoy. Well worth reading!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The Missing Kennedy is a quick and fascinating read, delving into a small part of Rosemary Kennedy's life that not many know about. As Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff's aunt was her caretaker for many years, the author has many personal memories of Rosie that she shares in the novel. At the same time, she explores her own family's experience with mental illness, she is able to gain insight into Rosemary's struggles and the life she led. Truly a heartwarming tale.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A really great book. I lived in Kenosha, Wis All my growing up years and never knew About her....Thank You for this BOOK.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Great readd
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    the author's aunt, sister paulus, was a nun who took care of rosemary kennedy. also, the author herself knew and interacted with rosemary just like a family member/friend. the author talks about her aunt's life to give the reader an insight on a woman in the 1940's becoming a nun and devoting her life to the church and people with special needs. there's many nice pics of rosemary and her family members, as well as with the author. i personally hold no judgment on rose and joe kennedy...that was a different time and there was also the possibility rosemary was misdiagnosed. it's very possible rosemary was epileptic and even had a learning disability. very interesting read coming from someone who's very own aunt was one of rosemary's caretakers. anyone wanting to know more about rosemary kennedy should def. get this book.
    drjerryJS More than 1 year ago
    This is more of a companion piece to "Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter." Some critics of that book noted that there was comparatively little about Rosemary's residential treatment and focused more on the Kennedy family, especially Rose and Joe's role in Rosemary's "treatment." "The Missing Kennedy" fills that gap, probably to the best extent possible, by providing the perspectives of someone who knew Rose via the care provided by her aunt, who was a nun in Wisconsin. The author presents some of the challenges her own family faced, but candidly, I thought it was a slight case of false advertising. People are interested in this book because it deals with Rosemary Kennedy, not because they want to know more about life in Depression-era Wisconsin, or the path someone took to become a nun. Factually, there may be at least one conflict with "Rosemary." Did John F. Kennedy visit his sister in Wisconsin or not? This book states that there is no evidence. "Rosemary" suggests a secret visit that led President Kennedy to become more engaged in policy-making benefiting the disabled, especially at Eunice Kennedy's insistence. Both books make one point clear: with the exception of Eunice, the Kennedy family wanted little to do with Rosemary during her formative years and only began to accept her as family much, much later in her life. This left me, at least, wondering whether, with the exception of Eunice, the Kennedy family's involvement in disability matters was genuine or looked at more along the lines of atonement for previous injustices committed upon Rosemary.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Dobie1 More than 1 year ago
    The Elizabeth Koehler show, nothing new about R.K. A waste of money
    jds222 More than 1 year ago
    HORRIBLE book all about the author and her family. Tries to tie in Rosemary Kennedy into her story...I would like my money back! Last time I ever read a book mentioned in People magazine.