Kennedys reunited at last in Arlington

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The Independent Online
THE final curtain fell on Camelot yesterday. In a shiny wooden coffin the body of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, who died of cancer last week, was taken first to a Catholic mass at her neighbourhood church in Manhattan and then flown to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington to be buried beside her first husband and the eternal flame she lit for him.

Bidding her farewell, as he had done in the 1960s to his slain brothers Jack and Bobby, Senator Ted Kennedy said of his 64-year-old sister- in-law, 'Jackie was too young to be a widow in 1963, and too young to die now'. He praised her genuineness and strength of character. 'No one else looked like, spoke like her, wrote like her . . . those cherished notes in her distinctive hand on her powder blue stationery.'

He set the tone of the day by starting his eulogy with a story about how she had ribbed him last summer, when President and Hillary Clinton came to the Kennedy yacht at Martha's Vineyard, the Massachusetts summer playground of the rich. She asked him to go and greet the presidential couple, but he told her Maurice Tempelsman, the financier and Jackie's companion, had already gone. 'Teddy, you go down, you do it, Maurice isn't running for re-election', she replied.

The mass in the unpretentious neo-classical church of St Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue was simple and private, by invitation only. About 700 family, friends and important people attended, including Mrs Clinton. Busy Park Avenue was closed to traffic and the few thousand who had come to pay their last respects were silent and at a distance, as she always wished they would be after the assassination.

She shunned publicity, said Senator Kennedy, because in part it brought back 'the painful memories and unbearable sorrow endured under the glare of a million lights'. Poems that she loved were read by Mr Tempelsman and her daughter Caroline - his choice called Ithaca by the Greek poet, Constantine Peter Cavafy, hers was Memory of Cape Cod by Edna St Vincent Millay. Jessye Norman, the African-American soprano sang Ave Maria and Panus Angelicus.

Jackie had been christened in the church and also confirmed there at the age of 12. Television cameras were not allowed inside, but were given a sound feed from the service. Many of the crowd outside listened on radios.

At Arlington cemetery, bouquets of flowers marked the grave, next to President Kennedy's, their son Patrick who was born in 1963 but lived only a few days and that of a still-born daughter who was never named. The cemetery was closed to the public for the burial.

Among the pall bearers, most of whom were Kennedy clan members, was Jack Walsh, a secret service agent who had served the Kennedys during their time in the White House. Recalling those days when Jackie was the exotic woman in an all-male club that she christened Camelot, Senator Kennedy said in his eulogy, 'I often think of what she said after Jack died. 'They made him a legend when he would have preferred to be a man.' Jackie would have preferred to be just herself, but the world insisted she be a legend, too.'

(Photograph omitted)