At just 31 years old, Jacqueline Lee Kennedy became First Lady in 1960. With the inauguration of her husband, John F. Kennedy, to the office of President, Jackie became one of the youngest First Ladies in U.S. history.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Burial and Grave
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Funeral
- Remembering Jacqueline Kennedy
Her youth and energy took the United States by storm, and she left a lasting mark on the nation and the world. Throughout her time in the White House, Jackie made the mansion more accessible to the public. She created an increase in tourism that continues to draw income to this day. But according to Jacqueline, her proudest achievement was raising her children, John F. Jr. and Caroline Kennedy.
An international culture and style icon, as well as a symbol of national strength and courage, Jackie Kennedy passed away in 1994 at the age of 64.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Burial and Grave
Five years after her first husband’s assassination, Jacqueline remarried. She wed shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis, and changed her name to Jacqueline Lee Kennedy Onassis.
And although Jackie and Aristotle stayed together until his death in 1975, Jackie would choose a burial next to her first husband.
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Jacqueline Lee Kennedy Onassis is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, next to her first husband, John F. Kennedy. The two lie side-by-side within the Kennedy Monument in Section 45 of the historical landmark.
Arlington is one of 141 national cemeteries in the United States, where soldiers and notable figures are buried. Although Arlington National Cemetery is just one out of the 141, it’s the most well-known.
In addition to John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, and their infant children, Kennedy’s brothers, Ted and Bobby, are buried at Arlington.
If you're looking for more, you can read about JFK's gravesite.
If you visit Jackie Kennedy’s gravesite, you won’t find an elaborate headstone. Instead, you’ll see a simple, grey slate gravestone marking Jacqueline’s final resting place.
Jackie designed the Kennedy Monument herself after the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963. The permanent, now-famous gravesite was completed in 1967. It features a small plaza made up of Cape Cod granite stones, quarried near John’s Massachusetts home. Between the stones are planted clover and grass to give the site a natural appearance.
At Jacqueline’s request, the Kennedy Gravesite and Monument also features an eternal flame. She reportedly drew inspiration from an existing Arlington monument: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Another influence was the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.
The Kennedy Gravesite’s Eternal Flame has burned since Jacqueline first lit it in 1967, and it sits at the head of John’s grave.
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Where are her second husband and her children buried?
Flanking Jackie and John F. Kennedy’s graves are the graves of their two infant children, Patrick and Arabella. Patrick passed away only a few days after his premature birth, and Arabella was tragically stillborn.
John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash in 1999 at the young age of 38. His remains were subsequently cremated and scattered at sea.
Jackie’s second husband, Aristotle Onassis, returned to his private island of Skorpios, Greece for his burial. He’s buried alongside his son, Alexander Onassis.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Funeral
While fox-hunting in Middleburg Virginia in 1993, Jacqueline Kennedy fell from her horse. She went to a nearby hospital for examination, where doctors found a swollen lymph node. And although they first diagnosed the cause as infection, it was later determined to be non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Just a few months later, the illness had spread, and the former First Lady’s prognosis wasn’t optimistic. She passed away peacefully, in her sleep, on May 19, 1994.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s funeral Mass took place just a few blocks away from her New York apartment on May 23, 1994.
Jackie’s funeral Mass was held at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. The church was the same Catholic parish where Jacqueline had her baptism in 1929. She also had her confirmation there as a teenager.
The decision to hold Jackie’s funeral Mass at the hundred-year-old Church of St. Ignatius was widely praised. At a time when more and more people were traveling far from home, many appreciated Jackie's return to her home church.
In the same spirit of continuity, the officiating priest at Jackie’s funeral Mass, Reverand Walter Modrys, pronounced Jacqueline’s name the French way (zhak-LEEN). That was the way she preferred when she was a young girl named Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.
Readings and eulogies
Heartfelt eulogies and readings took place at the funeral Mass, as well as later on, beside Jacqueline’s grave.
Jackie and John’s two surviving children, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg shared brief readings beside their mother’s grave. And President Clinton eulogized Mrs. Kennedy as “a remarkable woman whose life will forever glow in the lives of her fellow Americans.” Clinton spoke of Jackie’s courage following her husband’s assassination and of how she’d helped him and his wife, Hillary, cope with life in-office.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy (John’s older brother) recalled some of Jacqueline Kennedy’s proudest achievements. He reminisced on a statement Jackie had once made to him that “if you bungle raising your children, nothing else much matters in life.” He paid homage to the fact that no matter the obstacles she faced, Jacqueline steadfastly provided the best life she could for her two living children.
Jacqueline’s companion in the later years of her life, Maurice Tempelsman, read a favorite poem: “Ithaca” by C.P. Cafavy. And Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, read another favorite: “Memory of Cape Cod” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
None of the eulogizers or speakers at Jackie’s funeral made mention of her second husband, Aristotle Onassis. The reason for the omission is unclear, but the media at the time widely criticized it as inappropriate.
In addition to the Catholic funeral Mass, there was also a graveside funeral ceremony for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. And although the two Kennedys were buried side-by-side, Jackie and John’s funerals were starkly different.
Whereas millions of people viewed John F. Kennedy’s casket, and over a thousand were present at his funeral, Jackie’s service was a modest affair. The former First Lady’s graveside funeral had less than 100 people in attendance, in accordance with her passion for privacy.
While Mrs. Clinton attended the Mass, Bill Clinton had gone to meet the chartered plane that carried Mrs. Kennedy’s body to National Airport in Washington from New York. He rode in the hearse along with members of the family to Arlington National Cemetery. Other family members arrived at the cemetery in three long limousines.
At the grave, family friend and retired Catholic Archbishop of New Orleans, Reverend Philip J. Hannan, conducted the service. He’d conducted John’s funeral as auxiliary bishop of Washington in 1963. He described Mrs. Onnassis simply as, “so dearly beloved, so sorely missed.”
Other family members who attended Jackie Kennedy’s funeral include Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill Ross, and her stepbrother, Hugh Auchincloss.
Three Kennedy sisters—Jean Kennedy Smith, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Patricia Kennedy Lawford were in attendance, as well.
Notable figures in attendance include Bill and Hilary Clinton (President and First Lady at that time), Senator Edward Kennedy, Daryl Hannah (an actress and close friend of John Kennedy Jr.), and four other state senators: John Glenn, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, John Kerry, and Claiborne Pell. Lyndon B. Johnson’s widow, Lady Bird, also attended the Mass.
Bells over the Potomac River
To wrap up the service, 64 bells rang from the tower of the Washington Cathedral. Each bell ringing over the Potomac river symbolized a year of Jackie Kennedy’s too-short but nonetheless impactful life.
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Remembering Jacqueline Kennedy
Although she lived a highly-publicized life as one of the nation’s most beloved First Ladies, Jackie Kennedy valued her privacy. Her funeral Mass and burial service reflect that preference for modesty and quietude.
And with the world increasingly placing fame and fortune above all else, Jacqueline Kennedy’s regard for personal integrity served as an inspiration.
Historians believe Jacqueline Kennedy was one of the most important First Ladies of her century, representing style as well as substance.
If you want to pay respect to Jacqueline Kennedy and her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, you’ll find their graves in Section 45 at Arlington National Cemetery.
- “First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Memorial Tribute in the One Hundred Third Congress of the United States." Authenticated U.S. Government Information, Government Printing Office. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CDOC-103sdoc32/pdf/CDOC-103sdoc32.pdf
- Apple, R.W. Jr. “Death of a First Lady: The Overview; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Is Buried.” The New York Times. 24 May 1994. https://www.nytimes.com/1994/05/24/us/death-of-a-first-lady-the-overview-jacqueline-kennedy-onassis-is-buried.html