Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

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This article is about the late wife of President Kennedy's son. For the daughter of U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, see Caroline Kennedy.
Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy
Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy.jpg
Born Carolyn Jeanne Bessette
(1966-01-07)January 7, 1966
White Plains, New York, U.S.
Died July 16, 1999(1999-07-16) (aged 33)
Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard
Residence Greenwich, Connecticut
Alma mater Boston University
Occupation Calvin Klein saleswoman
Religion Roman Catholic[citation needed]
Spouse(s) John F. Kennedy, Jr. (m. 1996–99)[1] (their deaths)
Parents William J. Bessette
Ann Messina Freeman
Relatives Lauren Bessette, sister (1964-1999), Lisa Bessette (b. 1964)

Carolyn Jeanne Bessette-Kennedy (January 7, 1966 – July 16, 1999) was the wife of John F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Early life[edit]

Carolyn Jeanne Bessette was born in White Plains, Westchester County, New York, the youngest child of William J. Bessette, an architect, and Ann Messina Freeman, an administrator in the New York City public school system. She grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and attended St. Mary's High School, where she was voted an "All-Around Beautiful Person". She graduated from Boston University in 1988. While at Boston University she met and dated John Cullen, an NHL player.[2]

She had two older sisters, twins Lauren Bessette and Lisa Bessette.[citation needed]


After college, she worked as a saleswoman at the Calvin Klein store in Boston before being transferred to the corporate headquarters in New York, where she worked as a publicist and met John F. Kennedy, Jr.. The couple became a popular paparazzi target, with gossip columns detailing where they ate and shopped and even covering the arguments they had. Photographers waited outside the couple's Tribeca apartment to snap photographs. She was reportedly uncomfortable with the media frenzy and the repeated comparisons to her mother-in-law, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.[citation needed]

Bessette and Kennedy were married on September 21, 1996 on Cumberland Island, Georgia in a historic Baptist church.[1] Their wedding was private and secret in an effort to elude the media.

Carolyn's wedding dress was designed by Narciso Rodriguez.[3] She and her sister-in-law Caroline Kennedy accompanied her husband as he underwent hand surgery on October 8, 1997.[4]


Carolyn died on July 16, 1999, along with her husband and older sister Lauren, when the Piper Saratoga II HP that Kennedy was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha's Vineyard. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the probable cause of the crash was: "The pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation. Factors in the accident were haze and the dark night"[5] After a lengthy search, the wreck was discovered in the late afternoon of July 21. The bodies were recovered from the ocean floor by Navy divers and taken by motorcade to the county medical examiner's office, where autopsies revealed that the crash victims had died upon impact. At the same time, the Kennedy and Bessette families announced their plans for memorial services.[6] In the late hours of July 21, the three bodies were taken from Hyannis to Duxbury where they were cremated in the Mayflower Cemetery crematorium.[7] In the morning of July 22, their ashes were scattered from the Navy ship USS Briscoe off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.[8]


Before marrying Kennedy, Bessette was in a relationship with Calvin Klein model Michael Bergin, who wrote a memoir about the couple's relationship called The Other Man: John F. Kennedy Jr., Carolyn Bessette, and Me, which was published in 2004.[9]

In 2005, Bessette-Kennedy's close friend Carole Radziwill, daughter-in-law of John's aunt Lee Radziwill, published a memoir entitled What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love that includes her memories of the plane crash that took place just weeks before her own husband's death from cancer.[10] In 2012, John Kennedy, Jr.'s assistant and publicist, RoseMarie Terenzio, published her experiences and behind-the-scenes observations based on her five years working with Kennedy and, eventually, her friendship with him and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy in Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Carolyn Bessette and John F. Kennedy Jr. Wedding". Celebrity Bride Guide. Aug 16, 2008. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  2. ^ Gliatto, Tom (1996). "Bridal Sweet". People Magazine. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  3. ^ date=October 2012
  4. ^ "Jfk Jr. Undergoes Surgery On Hand". Chicago Tribune. October 10, 1997. 
  5. ^ "NTSB Press Release". July 6, 2000. 
  6. ^ John F. Kennedy, Jr. Plane Crash and Search Time Line on
  7. ^,+July+1999.pdf Article in the Duxbury Clipper, July 28, 1999
  8. ^ Gellman, Barton; Ferdinand, Pamela (1999-07-23). "Kennedy, Bessettes Given Shipboard Rites". Washington Post. pp. A1. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  9. ^ Bergin, Michael (March 30, 2004). The Other Man: John F. Kennedy Jr., Carolyn Bessette, and Me. William Morrow. ISBN 0-06-072389-0. 
  10. ^ Nathan, Jean (Sep 1, 2005). Once Upon A Time. Vogue Magazine. 
  11. ^ RoseMarie Terenzio (January 24, 2012). Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss. Gallery Books. ISBN 1439187673. 

External links[edit]