Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remembering... Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis


As these things go, hers was not the worst ending in the world...

Okay, so she was by her husband's side when he was murdered, in November 1963; despite her frantic scramble out of the car - screaming 'They've killed my husband!'* - she didn't later descend into madness like Mary Todd Lincoln, nor did she end her days in obscurity like Lucretia Garfield or Ida McKinley. Among the wives of assassinated American Presidents, in fact, Jacqueline Kennedy may have found the elusive formula for turning her tragedy as First Widow into triumph merely by surviving what was to come.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's own third act saw her transform from tastefully glamourous mourner in the latter half of the 1960s to tabloid fodder (and prey of paparazzo Ron Galella) throughout the 1970s as she married and then was widowed by** shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, to a literary editor first with Viking Press and then with Doubleday, before settling nicely into a well-balanced public/private life as the longtime companion of Maurice Tempelsman from the 1980s onward.

After her death - on this day in 1994, which came after a brief battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - Central Park's main reservoir was renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in her honour, while the White House's East Garden had already been renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden in her honor by her successor, 'Lady Bird' Johnson, in recognition of Mrs Kennedy's efforts to make the Executive Mansion, and everything in it, 'the best'***.

*Which, in all fairness, they had.
**October 20th, 1968 and March 15th, 1975, respectively.
***Which she surely did; she routinely tops the list of favourite First Ladies, and both incoming and outgoing First Ladies are invariably compared to her.
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