Diamond merchant Maurice Tempelsman was the former first lady’s faithful companion for 15 years until her death
In just a few days it will be 27 years since the death of Jackie Kennedy who would now be 92 years old. Despite the past time, his figure continues to arouse fascination. His story has been recreated in books and movies repeatedly but there is a stage in his life that has always remained in the background: the one that occupied his last and longest love, Maurice Tempelsman. This Belgian diamond dealer was her faithful and discreet companion, a man who, unlike their husbands – US President John F. Kennedy and Greek shipowner Aristotle Onassis – always sought anonymity. At his side he lived his last and longest love story although they never married since Tempelsman was not divorced from his wife, with whom he had three children
Born in Belgium in 1929 to a family of Orthodox Jews in Antwerp, Maurice Tempelsman began working for his father, a diamond merchant, at the age of 16. He did not suspect then that Jackie Kennedy would end up in his life and that he would have a love relationship with her. With his parents he emigrated to the United States and at age 21 he had already become a millionaire after negotiating an agreement with the United States Government to store diamonds for industrial uses, such as drill bits for oil drills. He was also actively involved in promoting African-African relations and helped finance Nelson Mandela’s first trip to the United States.
It was through their connections that Tempelsman first met Jackie in the 1950s, when he arranged a meeting between then-Senator Kennedy and the South African diamond traders, though many more years passed before their relationship became more than just friendship.
Tempelsman supported Jacqueline Kennedy’s work as an editor and they shared a love of art collecting – African art for him, Greek for her. They went on vacation together to Martha’s Vineyard, the island where she had a house that she built in the 1970s and which is one of the summer retreats of the aristocracy of the Northeastern United States. They even welcomed then-President Bill and Hillary Clinton aboard Tempelsman’s yacht, Relemar , the year before Jackie’s death. The couple also enjoyed simpler pleasures like being able to walk through Central Park together.
With Maurice Tempelsman she was happy but in 1993 she learned that she had cancer . In order to take care of his partner, Maurice Tempelsman set up his office in his apartment so as not to be separated from the woman he loved. On May 19, 1994, the former first lady died surrounded by her closest relatives – her two children and Tempelsman – at the age of 64. At his funeral, his partner read a poem, Ithaca de Cavafy, which he modified for the occasion. ” And now the journey is over, too short, alas, too short (…) It was full of adventure and wisdom, laughter and love, courage and gratitude. So bye bye ”.
In the 36 pages of her will, Jackie Kennedy left Tempelsman powers of execution. Some estimate his fortune to be between $ 100 million and $ 200 million at the time of his death. His children also received a duplex on Fifth Avenue, two houses in Massachusetts and $ 250,000 each, in addition to a fund established by their father and financially supported by Jacqueline. The will distributed other amounts and properties among family members, close friends, and the charitable foundation, C. & J. (Caroline and John). To Maurice Tempelsman, who helped multiply the fortune inherited from Aristotle Onassis, he bequeathed something very dear to her: “My Greek alabaster sculpture of the head of a woman.”
Tempelsman is now 91 years old, is chairman of the board of directors of Lazare Kaplan International, the largest diamond company in the United States, general partner of Leon Tempelsman & Son , an investment company specializing in real estate and venture capital. He lives in New York away from media attention and has not been met since.