JFK Jr. Had a History with Cumberland

By Jackson, Gordon | The Florida Times Union, July 18, 1999 | Go to article overview

JFK Jr. Had a History with Cumberland


Jackson, Gordon, The Florida Times Union


ST. MARYS -- Many people believe John Kennedy Jr.'s ties to Cumberland Island began in 1996 when he married Caroline Bessette in a private ceremony that captivated the world.

While the wedding put Cumberland Island on the map, his relationship with Georgia's largest barrier island began long before his reign as the world's most eligible bachelor ended.

As hope waned yesterday that Kennedy, his wife and sister-in-law had survived an apparent plane crash near Martha's Vineyard, Mass., a family friend briefly reminisced about the relationship the son of the 35th president of the United States had with the pristine island.

"I'm just very upset right now," said Gogo Ferguson, a lifelong island resident and world-famous jeweler who descends from the Carnegie family. "John loved Cumberland like we [family members] loved Cumberland."

Ferguson helped organize the wedding in the African-American Baptist Church at the north end of the 17-mile barrier island and following reception at the Greyfield Inn. The surprise wedding caught even the most veteran Kennedy watchers off guard.

Kennedy's frequent visits to Cumberland Island dated back to his childhood and gave him sanctuary from the paparazzi that hounded him relentlessly, said Janet Brinko, St. Marys tourism director.

"He always found peace and serenity there," Brinko said. "He had such wonderful experiences there as a child, he chose it as the place to marry."

Kennedy also worked outside the spotlight to help protect the island's most well-known historical structure, Plum Orchard mansion, Ferguson said.

Kennedy was on the board of directors for the Plum Orchard Center for the Arts on Cumberland Island. …

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