People

The Carolyn No One Knew

Friends and family open up about the woman who captured JFK Jr.’s heart—and died alongside him 18 years ago: ‘They would love hard, and they would fight hard’
A Life Cut Short Carolyn (on Martha’s Vineyard in 1996 with John’s godson Phineas Howie and dog Friday) “was an intoxicating combination of beauty, brains and gumption that enthralled John,” says a close friend.

When Carolyn Bessette was proposed to by the world’s most eligible bachelor, John F. Kennedy Jr., she did what many would consider unthinkable: She kept him waiting. For weeks prior John had stowed the diamond-and-sapphire ring—inspired by one owned by his late mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis—in a Duane Reade pharmacy bag at the New York City office of his magazine George. Then during a July weekend on Martha’s Vineyard in 1995, the 34-year-old son of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie took Carolyn fishing. “He went into this thing about how everything’s better with a partner, not just fishing but life,” says his former assistant RoseMarie Terenzio. “He said, ‘I want you to be my partner.’” But the 29-year-old fashion publicist wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge. “It was like, ‘I don’t know when I want to do this—I’m a little nervous,’” Terenzio says of Carolyn’s response. Recalls a close friend of John’s: “She held off the proposal for about three weeks. I think it made him all the more intent on marrying her.”

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