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Rare photos: President John F. Kennedy’s last Christmas in Palm Beach


Will President-elect Donald Trump spend Christmas and New Year’s in Palm Beach, as usual?

It’s likely, since he’s spent the holidays at Mar-a-Lago for most of the past 20 years.

Trump, of course, isn’t the first president to spend Christmas in Palm Beach.

Browsing through the photo archive on the John F. Kennedy Library’s website, we found a little-known group of photos of JFK, Jackie and their extended family in Palm Beach on Christmas morning, 1962.

They were not taken at the Kennedy family’s oceanfront mansion, which became known as the Winter White House, but at a nearby house JFK and Jackie frequently rented during the three years of his presidency.

These 54-year-old snapshots by White House photographer Cecil Stoughton reveal the Kennedys in all their casual glamour.

Here are JFK and Jackie, not as president and first lady, but as parents and hosts of a mob of kids and adults enjoying what no one could have dreamed would be their final Christmas together.

JFK hands out some of the 11 Christmas stockings hanging on the fireplace. Wearing costumes, Caroline, John John and their cousins act out the Christmas story for indulgent aunts, uncles and grandparents. Jackie, sitting on the floor, wearing only one flip-flop, holds a tired John John on her lap.

In a chaotic group photo in front of the fireplace, Jackie is seen trying to corral small children and a pair of uncooperative dogs for a family Christmas portrait.

Sometimes, the Kennedys were just like the rest of us.

“They were very relaxed and family-oriented,” remembered Kathy Fay, who lives in Delray Beach. Her father Paul “Red” Fay, was one of JFK’s best friends. The families spent weekends together at Camp David and in Palm Beach at Easter.

Although the Fays weren’t in Palm Beach for Christmas that year, Kathy Fay says the informality shown in the photos was exactly how she remembers the first family.

“They had a bit of that 1950s glamour,” she said. “They weren’t trying to be beautiful people; they just were.”

Since they traveled with an entourage of White House staff and security people, the first family couldn’t stay at Joe and Rose Kennedy’s house, which was usually filled on holidays with Kennedy siblings and their families.

Instead, the first family stayed in the large oceanfront house of C. Michael Paul, a family friend, about a mile south of the family home.

The palatial mansion was more modern than the family estate, with eight bedrooms, a floor-to-ceiling ocean view and a grand marble staircase, but what was most important to privacy-loving Jackie (and perhaps the Secret Service) were the high hedges shielding the property from view.

These photos of Camelot at Christmas show the President as a family man in yellow chinos not afraid to play on the floor with his son.

In one shot, family patriarch Joe Kennedy feigns delight as a young Caroline presents him with her doll.

Also in the photos are JFK’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Jackie’s sister, Lee, who became known as Princess Radziwill a few years earlier when she married mustachioed Stanislaw Radziwill, the inheritor of a Polish title.

Can we take a moment to appreciate the Palm Beach perfection of the sister’s outfits?

>>RELATED: Trump tells evangelicals what’s on his Christmas list

Lee, in a hot pink shantung silk tunic and pants combo, and Jackie, wearing a matching red crop top and cigarette pants with pearls and flip-flops, embody a timeless resort look that would look as appropriate today as it did a half century ago.

Look for more of the style that made the first lady a fashion icon in the movie “Jackie,” set to debut later this month.

The Radziwill’s son and daughter, Anthony and Christina, are also in the photos, as is Gustavo Paredes, in red, who appears to be dressed as one of the Wise Men. Paredes’ mother, Providencia (Provi), was Jackie’s personal assistant.

Today, Paredes is a board member of The Hispanic Institute in Washington, D.C.

After Christmas, the Kennedys were to have one more holiday together in Palm Beach, when the first family returned in April 1963 for Easter.

By then, Jackie was pregnant with Patrick, the baby boy who was born prematurely the following August and lived just two days.

Three and a half months after that, JFK himself was gone, assassinated in Dallas.

Camelot was lost.

But that last sunny Christmas endures, thanks to these special photos.



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