Jackie Kennedy Cause Of Death, Cancer Lymphoma Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Cause of death
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.
A Transformation At the White House
“She really was the one who made over the White House into a living stage — not a museum — but a stage where American history and art were displayed,” said Hugh Sidey, who was a White House correspondent for Time magazine at the time. He said she told him: “I want to restore the White House to its original glory.”
There was more. She brought in a French chef and threw elegant and memorable parties. The guest lists went beyond prime ministers and potentates to Nobel laureates and distinguished artists, musicians and intellectuals.
Americans gradually became familiar with the whispering, intimate quality of her voice, with the head scarf and dark glasses at the taffrail of Honey Fitz on a summer evening on the Potomac, with the bouffant hair and formal smile for the Rose Garden and the barefoot romp with her children on a Cape Cod beach.
There was an avalanche of articles and television programs on her fashion choices, her hair styles, her tastes in art, music and literature, and on her travels with the President across the nation and to Europe. On a visit to New York, she spoke Spanish in East Harlem and French in a Haitian neighborhood.
Arriving in France, a stunning understated figure in her pillbox hat and wool coat as she rode with the President in an open car, she enthralled crowds that chanted “Vive Jacqui” on the road to Paris, and later, in an evening gown at a dinner at Versailles, she mesmerized the austere Charles de Gaulle.
When the state visit ended, a bemused President Kennedy said: “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris — and I have enjoyed it.”
But the images of Mrs. Kennedy that burned most deeply were those in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963: her lunge across the open limousine as the assassin’s bullets struck, the Schiaparelli pink suit stained with her husband’s blood, her gaunt stunned face in the blur of the speeding motorcade, and the anguish later at Parkland Memorial Hospital as the doctors gave way to the priest and a new era.
In the aftermath, some things were not so readily apparent: her refusal to change clothes on the flight back to Washington to let Americans see the blood; her refusal to take sleeping pills that might dull her capacity to arrange the funeral, whose planning she dominated. She stipulated the riderless horse in the procession and the eternal flame by the grave at Arlington.
And in public, what the world saw was a figure of admirable self-control, a black-veiled widow who walked beside the coffin to the tolling drums with her head up, who reminded 3-year-old John Jr. to salute at the service and who looked with solemn dignity upon the proceedings. She was 34 years old.
A week later, it was Mrs. Kennedy who bestowed the epitaph of Camelot upon a Kennedy Presidency, which, while deeply flawed in the minds of many political analysts and ordinary citizens, had for many Americans come to represent something magical and mythical. It happened in an interview Mrs. Kennedy herself requested with Theodore H. White, the reporter-author and Kennedy confidant who was then writing for Life magazine.
The conversation, he said in a 1978 book, “In Search of History,” swung between history and her husband’s death, and while none of J.F.K.’s political shortcomings were mentioned — stories about his liaisons with women were known only to insiders at the time — Mrs. Kennedy seemed determined to “rescue Jack from all these ‘bitter people’ who were going to write about him in history.”
She told him that the title song of the musical “Camelot” had become “an obsession with me” lately. She said that at night before bedtime, her husband had often played it, or asked her to play it, on an old Victrola in their bedroom. Mr. White quoted her as saying:
“And the song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot, sad Camelot. . . . ‘Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.’
“. . . There’ll never be another Camelot again.”
Mr. White recalled: “So the epitaph on the Kennedy Administration became Camelot — a magic moment in American history, when gallant men danced with beautiful women, when great deeds were done, when artists, writers and poets met at the White House and the barbarians beyond the walls were held back.”
But Mr. White, an admirer of Mr. Kennedy, added that her characterization was a misreading of history and that the Kennedy Camelot never existed, though it was a time when reason was brought to bear on public issues and the Kennedy people were “more often right than wrong and astonishingly incorruptible.”