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NYC Mourns Loss of JFK Jr.

July 20, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ John F. Kennedy Jr. wasn’t just another celebrity with a Manhattan address.

Whether in a tuxedo for a museum fund-raiser or shirtless in Central Park, his life was woven into the fabric of the city. He basked in its pleasures, endured its hardships and worked with struggling New Yorkers to make life better for everyone.

``He was generous, and just a very, very nice person,″ said Marie Koenig who traveled across the city Monday _ as did hundreds of other New Yorkers _ to leave flowers on the stoop in front of Kennedy’s building in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood.

Other tributes placed at the Kennedy’s doorstep included candles, teddy bears and balloons. The steady outpouring of emotion began over the weekend following news that Kennedy, his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were in a plane crash off the Massachusetts coast.

Far removed from the Tribeca neighborhood where Kennedy lived, his sister, Caroline Kennedy, spent her 13th wedding anniversary in seclusion at her Long Island home with her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, and their three children.

She was visited by her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, who tried to lighten the family’s sad vigil by playing basketball with her children.

In his cultural pursuits, John Jr. followed a path trodden by his mother, Jacqueline Onassis, known for her work to save New York monuments. He created a foundation called Reaching Up to help the struggling and disabled.

Ken Sunshine, a spokesman for the foundation, said much of the work that Kennedy did went unpublicized, especially his encouragement for hundreds of poor students who received annual $1,000 fellowships to help them through college.

``John never sought public recognition for his hard work _ in fact he avoided it. He believed work was the reward,″ Sunshine said. ``John F. Kennedy Jr. improved thousands of lives, and his work will continue to benefit thousands more.″

Herminia Torres, a 38-year-old Bronx woman who received one of the Reaching Up fellowships, remembered her meetings with Kennedy.

``It’s amazing how down to earth he was. He always presented himself as an individual, and he wanted to hear what we had to say,″ she recalled. ``He used the Kennedy name as an opportunity to help other people be heard and get ahead.″

Founded in 1987, Reaching Up assists the mentally retarded and workers on the bottom of the economic ladder. One project is studying how the city can make life easier for its disabled citizens.

Kennedy last year attended the opening of the renovated Grand Central Terminal, which Mrs. Onassis had fought to preserve when its owners threatened to build an office tower above it in the 1970s.

He also shared his mother’s interest in the Whitney Museum of American Art, said museum chairman Leonard A. Lauder.

Kennedy _ who launched his political magazine George in 1995 _ also took part in the nitty-gritty of city politics.

In 1993, he campaigned for David Dinkins, the city’s first black mayor, in his unsuccessful re-election bid. More recently, Kennedy and his wife worked to defeat a plan to build a multiplex movie theater that would have brought traffic into their neighborhood.

``He was a real good guy,″ Dinkins said. ``It’s a real tribute to Jackie that he turned out the way he did. But I guess, with the genes he had, he was going to turn out great anyway.″

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