|Arlington, VA||Summer 2003|
On Monday, November 25, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy laid her husband to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, on an axis with the National Mall across the Potomac River. The 34-year-old widow brought the services to a close by lighting an eternal flame to mark the burial site of John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated three days prior in Texas. The eternal flame and the Kennedy plot, where the former first lady herself is now interred, is equivalent to a pilgrimage site for many Americans. Upwards of three million people visit Arlington annually to pay their respects to those buried at the nation’s most hallowed ground, with the Kennedys among its most visited residents.
The plot where President Kennedy was buried in 1963 was not his final resting place, precisely. Three days after the funeral, Mrs. Kennedy hired architect John Carl Warnecke to design a permanent memorial for her family. Warnecke had been friends with the president and worked on Mrs. Kennedy’s successful plan to save historic buildings north of the White House at Lafayette Square that were lined up for demolition. On the evening of March 14, 1967, the president was exhumed and reburied approximately 20 feet downhill for everlasting disposition.
No photographs exist from my first visit to Mrs. Kennedy’s burial site in summer 2003, when I was accompanied by my parents and my sister. The following spring, when Ronald Reagan’s state funeral engendered a return trip to the Washington metropolitan area, my father and I revisited the Kennedys and documented it with images such as this one.
A graduate of George Washington University, Jacqueline Bouvier was working as a journalist with the Washington Times-Herald when she was introduced to then-Congressman John F. Kennedy in 1952. After the 1975 death of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O. worked as a book editor for Viking Press and Doubleday. She continued to be employed at Doubleday until her passing on May 19, 1994 of cancer.
On May 23rd, after an eleven-minute burial service, the iconic first lady was lowered into the burial vault in Arlington. She joined not only her first husband but two of their children — a stillborn daughter and two-day-old Patrick. Mrs. Kennedy’s marker was placed in October with the inscription “Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. The choice to include all three of her last names was made by her surviving children, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and John F. Kennedy, Jr., with the blessing of their uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy. The president’s tablet was moved about 30 inches to the left when Jackie’s was installed, in order to preserve the symmetry of the 18-by-30-foot plot.
Born: July 28, 1929 in Southampton, New York
Spouses: John F. Kennedy (m. 1953-1963); Aristotle Socrates Onassis (m. 1968-1975)
First Lady Tenure: 1961-1963
Died: May 19, 1994 in New York, New York
Cause of Death: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
"We should all do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just complain about them. We owe that to our country."
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Adler, Bill, ed. The Eloquent Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: A Portrait in Her Own Words. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
Apple, R.W., Jr. “DEATH OF A FIRST LADY: The Overview; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Is Buried.” New York Times. May 24, 1994. https://www.nytimes.com/1994/05/24/us/death-of-a-first-lady-the-overview-jacqueline-kennedy-onassis-is-buried.html.
Associated Press. “Kennedy Grave Reopens, With New Marker.” New York Times. October 8, 1994. https://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/08/us/kennedy-grave-reopens-with-new-marker.html.
Scene Therapy (blog). “Jackie Kennedy’s New York Apartment.” October 29, 2019. https://scenetherapy.com/jackie-kennedys-new-york-apartment/.