People often tell me I could be a great man. I’d rather be a good man
John F. Kennedy Junior was born just a month into his famous father’s US Presidency. The day before his third birthday, in a truly heartbreaking scene, the young John stepped forward in front of a bank of cameras to salute his father’s coffin.
John’s father’s assassination, his uncle Bobby’s assassination five years after that and his mother’s remarriage to shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, all occurred before he was nine years old.
John grew up to be a strikingly handsome young man – in 1988, People magazine called him the sexiest man alive – and dated a number of stars including model Cindy Crawford and actresses Daryl Hannah and Sarah Jessica Parker.
He toyed with acting as a career himself (something his mother strongly disapproved of), but by the late Nineties, he was enjoying success in publishing, launching the magazine George in 1997.
Aged 20, he’d launched a charity, Reaching Up, educating and empowering low-paid healthcare workers to access broader education and skills, to improve both their own opportunities and the lives of the disabled people they care for.
It was about more than money, said admirers and beneficiaries of his philanthropy. With a winning way of bringing people to work together, he was hands-on in his commitment to causes he was passionate about, but rarely talked about this side of his life. At the age of 15, he and his cousin had trekked through Guatemala to help victims of an earthquake rebuild their homes.
“I think everyone needs to feel they've created something that was their own, on their own terms,” he said.
Tragically, Kennedy was killed when the small plane he was piloting crashed into the sea off Martha’s Vineyard. His wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and her sister Lauren also died in the crash.
His legacy remains in the John F. Kennedy Institute, which continues the empowering work of Reaching Up.