It’s been 20 years since the plane crash that took the lives of John F. Kennedy Jr, his wife Carolyn Bessette, and her sister Lauren Bessette. JFK Jr. was flying the trio to a family wedding. The aircraft went down in the Atlantic near Martha’s Vineyard on July 16, 1999.
The story of the ordeal has been compiled into a documentary called “The Last Days of John F. Kennedy, Jr.” It debuted on ABC on January 3, 2019.
Most of the focus was centered on Kennedy and his wife’s tumultuous relationship. Lauren Bessette tends to get overlooked.
Here’s what you need to know about Lauren Bessette.
1. Lauren Bessette Was Remembered For Her Commitment to Community Service in Her Hometown of Greenwich
Lauren Bessette was remembered as a very giving person after her death. The Associated Press spoke with former high school classmate Abby Crockett Tuttle following the 1999 crash.
Tuttle told the news outlet that Bessette devoted much of her time in high school to helping others. Bessette reportedly volunteered to help tutor mentally disabled students, sang in nursing homes and helped to launch a recycling program in Greenwich. She graduated from Greenwich High School in 1982.
2. Bessette Earned an M.B.A. From the Wharton School of Business
Lauren Bessette chose Hobart and William Smith College for her undergraduate education. She majored in economics and was part of economics honor society Omicron Delta Epsilon.
Her former professor, Daniel McGowan, spoke with the Observer about what it was like to have her in class. “You would like to have a roomful of Laurens. She was definitely honors material. But she was fun to have in class, because she was interested in the subject, wanting to learn, not afraid of entering something that had been sort of male-dominated.”
After graduating, Bessette went to work as an analyst for Morgan Stanley in New York City. She left the bank after two years to return to school. Bessette earned an M.B.A. from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. She then went back to work at Morgan Stanley and started working her way up.
3. Lauren Bessette Was a Successful Investment Banker at Morgan Stanley & Spent Four Years Working For the Bank in Hong Kong
Lauren Bessette appears to have hit the ground running when she rejoined Morgan Stanley after earning her master’s degree. In 1994, she took a position in the firm’s Hong Kong office, where she stayed for four years. She was reportedly fluent in Mandarin Chinese, according to the Los Angeles Times. Bessette was promoted to vice president during her time abroad.
Bessette returned to New York City in 1998. She soon received another promotion, this time to principal.
Former Morgan Stanley colleagues raved about Bessette. Jeanmarie McFadden told the LA Times, “Lauren was truly one of the most beloved and admired members of our investment banking group. She was a warm, dynamic, vivacious and fun-loving person, full of spirit and life.”
An unnamed colleague told the Observer, “She was an unusually attractive woman. She was really kind of a knockout. I thought she was beautiful, and I was just struck.”
Colleague Chip Arndt also told CNN that Bessette was “stunningly beautiful and not afraid of being beautiful” in a male-dominated industry.
Friend Fergal Keane, a correspondent for the BBC, described Bessette in a piece for the Independent as one of the most vibrant women he had ever met. “[Lauren] never met you with anything less than the full force of her personality. And that was very powerful indeed. Her physical appearance was striking. Tall and statuesque, with long brown hair, she always surged rather than strolled; she was always the figure in the room who demanded the closest attention.”
4. Lauren Bessette Was Reportedly Dating Kennedy Cousin Bobby Shriver & She Planned to Meet Him at Martha’s Vineyard the Night of the Plane Crash
Lauren Bessette was less well-known nationally than younger sister Carolyn. But she had attracted some of her own media attention for her dating life.
At the time of her death, Bessette was reportedly dating another member of the Kennedy family: Bobby Shriver, JFK Jr’s cousin and the son of Eunice Kennedy.
The night of the plane crash, JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessett had planned to drop off Lauren at Martha’s Vineyard before flying to Hyannis Port for a wedding. Lauren Bessette had reportedly planned to meet up with Shriver at Martha’s Vineyard.
5. Lauren Bessette Was Close With Her Siblings; She Had an Identical Twin & Lived Near Carolyn in Manhattan
Lauren Bessette was one of two; she had an identical twin sister named Lisa Ann. Friends told the Associated Press that the twins maintained a very close relationship, despite living far apart for several years.
Lisa Ann studied at the University of Michigan. At the time of the crash in 1999, she was reportedly pursuing a doctorate in Munich, Germany. Her focus was on Renaissance studies.
Lisa Bessette apparently returned to Michigan for another Ph.D. program. She was mentioned in a 2007 University of Michigan newsletter; she was identified as having completed a doctorate in medieval art and had led a student trip to Paris.
Lauren Bessett was also close with younger sister Carolyn; in their final months, they were literally close. After returning to Manhattan after four years in Hong Kong, Lauren purchased an apartment in Tribeca, just a few blocks away from her sister and brother-in-law’s home.