Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who charmed America as a graceful
first lady and then eased its anguish as a stoic young widow, died
Thursday night (May 19, 1994) of cancer. She was 64.
Mrs. Onassis died at 10:15 p.m. (9:15 p.m. St. Louis time) in
her Manhattan apartment, said a statement from her longtime friend,
Nancy Tuckerman. Her "death was due to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, from
which she had been suffering for the past four months," Tuckerman
Her children, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, 36, and John F.
Kennedy Jr., 33, were with her, along with her longtime companion,
Maurice Tempelsman, and other family members. Funeral arrangements
will be private, Tuckerman said.
Earlier, a priest administered last rites and relatives
gathered around Mrs. Onassis as she battled untreatable lymph
cancer "with great fortitude."
The New York Times reported that Mrs. Onassis' cancer had
spread to her brain and liver. Quoting an unidentified health-care
worker in today's editions, the Times said Mrs. Onassis had been
suffering from pneumonia and had refused antibiotics.
The newspaper said she slipped into a coma Thursday.
When asked about the newspaper's report, Tuckerman would only
confirm that Mrs. Onassis had stopped receiving medication.
Mrs. Onassis returned to her Fifth Avenue apartment Wednesday
after doctors at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center said that
"there was nothing more to do for her," Tuckerman said.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is normally considered treatable, but in
some cases it moves quickly, with fatal results.
Tuckerman said: "The disease progressed to a point where there
was no more they could do. They reached a point whereby she could
either remain in the hospital or go home. She chose to go home."
As recently as Sunday, Mrs. Onassis had been seen walking in
Central Park on the arm of Tempelsman. But the health worker
familiar with her care said she was unable to walk very far and
needed to be supported by Tempelsman.
She returned to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center on
Monday and was found to have pneumonia, the health worker said.
Mrs. Onassis had signed a living will in February that clearly
expressed her wish not to receive aggressive medical treatment if
she developed a grave illness and such measures would be futile.
Tuckerman said Mrs. Onassis was "very comfortable" before her
"She has her children around her, and that's the way it should
As Kennedy relatives filed in and out of her co-op building,
Monsignor George Bardes of the nearby St. Thomas More Roman
Catholic Church heard her confession, gave her Communion, and
administered the sacrament of the sick, said Margaret Peet, a
church spokeswoman. The sacrament was formerly known as last rites
but is now given to any seriously ill member of the Roman Catholic
Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, D-Mass., son of the late Robert F.
Kennedy, said after visiting his aunt, "She is very, very sick and
it's very sad." But he added, "There's a lot of love in her room
and in her apartment."
Singer Carly Simon, a neighbor from Martha's Vineyard, where
Mrs. Onassis has a home, left the building in tears. "I love her
very much," she said.
Mrs. Onassis' son, John Jr., dashed across Central Park and
into the building Thursday morning to avoid the crowd of
photographers, reporters and television cameras camped outside the
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her husband, Edwin, were
there, along with Robert Kennedy, another son of Robert F. Kennedy.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., told reporters at midevening
that his sister-in-law was "enormously grateful to all the people
who have been kind enough to send her notes wishing her well." Less
than two hours before her death, Sen. Kennedy said that Mrs.
Onassis was "resting comfortably" and that he looked forward to
seeing her today. …