Mrs. Onassis is buried next to J.F.K. in Virginia

May 24, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — 3/8 TC WASHINGTON -- As a sultry spring breeze rippled the eternal flame she lighted 31 years ago at another moment of national grief, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was laid to rest alongside the grave of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.

The former first lady, who died of cancer last Thursday at age 64, was hailed by President Clinton in a brief graveside service yesterday as a woman who handled great gifts and bore great burdens "with dignity and grace and uncommon common sense."

"We say goodbye to Jackie," Mr. Clinton said. "May the flame she lit so long ago burn ever brighter here and always brighter in our hearts."

Her children, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and John F. Kennedy Jr., bade her farewell with readings from Scripture and laid flowers at the foot of her flower-bedecked mahogany casket. The Most Rev. Philip Hannan, the retired Archbishop of New Orleans who presided over President Kennedy's funeral, sprinkled holy water on the coffin, and a Navy chorus sang "Eternal Father Strong to Save."

In 15 minutes, the burial service was over and the Kennedy family members drifted away, some stopping at the nearby grave of Robert F. Kennedy to pay their respects.

The nation watched on live television as America buried yet another Kennedy. In the hazy distance, the bell of Washington's National Cathedral slowly tolled 64 times.

And thus ended an era of glamour and hope and tragedy that began with young Jack Kennedy's inauguration in 1961 and came to a close yesterday on a verdant hillside in the United States' best-known graveyard of heroes.

The widow of the president who was slain Nov. 22, 1963, became an image etched in the national memory for all these years, forever young and elegant, mysterious and private and yet a public treasure for two generations of Americans.

Jerry Grasso, 45, a jeweler from Pinellas Park, Fla., brought his video camera to the avenue leading to Arlington cemetery to watch Mrs. Onassis' funeral procession. He said he remembered the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy as marking America's "loss of innocence."

Mrs. Onassis' death, he said, "marks the end of the Kennedy era. As long as she was still alive, the Kennedy era was still alive."

The burial ceremony was attended by about 100 members of the Kennedy, Auchincloss and Radziwill families, including Lee Radziwill Ross, Mrs. Onassis' sister.

Those attending the service were all family except for a few, including Providencia Paredes, Mrs. Onassis' personal maid in the White House; her son, Gustavo, who grew up with John and is still a close friend, and Mrs. Onassis' close companion for the last 12 years or so, Maurice Tempelsman.

Buried alongside President Kennedy and Mrs. Onassis are the couple's first child, an unnamed daughter stillborn in 1956, and an infant son, Patrick, who died three days after his birth in August 1963.

The honorary pall bearers, all Kennedy relatives, were Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Timothy Shriver, Christopher Lawford, William K. Smith and Edward Kennedy Jr. Also among them was Jack Walsh, who as a Secret Service agent watched over John and Caroline when they were in the White House.

Rose Kennedy, the elderly and ailing matriarch of the clan, remained in Florida but planned to watch the burial on television, a family spokesman said.

The Kennedy grave site was closed all day yesterday, but hundreds of onlookers lined the route in to the cemetery and gathered outside its gates.

A cemetery spokesman said 23 other funerals that had been scheduled during the day at the 612-acre cemetery were going on as planned.

"Whether she was soothing a nation grieving for a former president or raising the children with the care and the privacy they deserved or simply being a good friend, she seemed always to do the right thing in the right way," Mr. Clinton said.

"May the flame she lit so long ago burn ever brighter here and always brighter in our hearts," the president said. "God bless you, friend, and farewell."

Mrs. Onassis' body arrived at Washington National Airport aboard a private aircraft shortly after 1 p.m., after a funeral Mass in New York. At the service at St. Ignatius Loyola Church, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy paid tribute to his sister-in-law as both a friend and an icon of American history and culture.

"She graced our history," Senator Kennedy said. "And for those of us who knew and loved her, she graced our lives."

John Kennedy Jr. paid tribute to his mother's "love of words, bonds of home and family and her spirit of adventure."

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the New York service and flew to Washington with Kennedy family members, where she was met by the president.

Mimi Ford, 72, of Alexandria, Va. stood in the shadow cast by a tall hedge lining the road leading to the cemetery gate.

"I think Jackie was outstanding. She bore whatever come her way with dignity and with more understanding than we gave her credit for. She never let her emotions get the better of her," Ms. Ford said, choking back tears.

When her husband suggested they stay home and watch the funeral on television, she said it was not an option.

"I just know how I felt about her, when you have a love affair for 30 years, you don't just turn it loose without a proper farewell," she said.

"This is sort of like the last chapter of Camelot."

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