Former First Lady
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Date Posted: Friday, May 19, 07:29:23am
Death of a First Lady ; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Dies of Cancer at 64
The New York Times
May 19, 1994
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the widow of President John F. Kennedy and of the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, died of a form of cancer of the lymphatic system yesterday at her apartment in New York City. She was 64 years old.
Mrs. Onassis, who had enjoyed robust good health nearly all her life, began being treated for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in early January and had been undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments in recent months while continuing her work as a book editor and her social, family and other personal routines.
But the disease, which attacks the lymph nodes, an important component of the body's immune system, grew progressively worse. Mrs. Onassis entered the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center for the last time on Monday but returned to her Fifth Avenue apartment on Wednesday after her doctors said there was no more they could do.
In recent years Mrs. Onassis had lived quietly but not in seclusion, working at Doubleday; joining efforts to preserve historic New York buildings; spending time with her son, daughter and grandchildren; jogging in Central Park; getting away to her estates in New Jersey, at Hyannis, Mass., and on Martha's Vineyard, and going about town with Maurice Tempelsman, a financier who had become her closest companion.
She almost never granted interviews on her past -- the last was nearly 30 years ago -- and for decades she had not spoken publicly about Mr. Kennedy, his Presidency or their marriage.
Mrs. Onassis was surrounded by friends and family since she returned home from the hospital on Wednesday. After she died at 10:15 P.M. on Thursday, Senator Edward M. Kennedy's office issued a statement saying: "Jackie was part of our family and part of our hearts for 40 wonderful and unforgettable years, and she will never really leave us."
President Clinton said he and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, spoke with Mrs. Onassis over the last several days and had been getting regular updates on her condition.
"She's been quite wonderful to my wife, to my daughter and to all of us," Mr. Clinton said.
Although she was one of the world's most famous women -- an object of fascination to generations of Americans and the subject of countless articles and books that re-explored the myths and realities of the Kennedy years, the terrible images of the President's 1963 assassination in Dallas, and her made-for-tabloids marriage to the wealthy Mr. Onassis -- she was a quintessentially private person, poised and glamorous, but shy and aloof.
They were qualities that spoke of her upbringing in the wealthy and fiercely independent Bouvier and Auchincloss families, of mansion life in East Hampton and Newport, commodious apartments in New York and Paris, of Miss Porter's finishing school and Vassar College and circles that valued a woman's skill with a verse-pen or a watercolor brush, at the reins of a chestnut mare or the center of a whirling charity cotillion.
She was only 23, working as an inquiring photographer for a Washington newspaper and taking in the capital night life of restaurants and parties, when she met John F. Kennedy, the young bachelor Congressman from Massachusetts, at a dinner party in 1952. She thought him quixotic after he told her he intended to become President.
But a year later, after Mr. Kennedy had won a seat in the United States Senate and was already being discussed as a Presidential possibility, they were married at Newport, R.I., in the social event of 1953, a union of powerful and wealthy Roman Catholic families whose scions were handsome, charming, trendy and smart. It was a whiff of American royalty.
And after Mr. Kennedy won the Presidency in 1960, there were a thousand days that seemed to raise up a nation mired in the cold war. There were babies in the White House for the first time in this century, and Jackie Kennedy, the vivacious young mother who showed little interest in the nuances of politics, busily transformed her new home into a place of elegance and culture.
She set up a White House fine arts commission, hired a White House curator and redecorated the mansion with early 19th Century furnishings, museum quality paintings and objets d'art, creating a sumptuous celebration of Americana that 56 million television viewers saw in 1961 as the First Lady, inviting America in, gave a guided tour broadcast by the three television networks.
Read more at: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0728.html
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