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Birth:
05 Nov 1964 1
Death:
16 Jul 1999 1
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Full Name:
Lauren G Bessette 1
Birth:
05 Nov 1964 1
Death:
16 Jul 1999 1
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Social Security:
Card Issued: Unknown Code (72) 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-8823 1

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Friends Remember Lauren Bessette, Who Was Thriving at Morgan Stanley

The departure of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s single-engine turbo plane on July 16 from a small New Jersey airport marked the end of a long day for Lauren Bessette. An investment banker in the corporate finance division of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Company, Ms. Bessette had gotten caught in traffic en route from her office at 1585 Broadway. She was still wearing a beige work dress as she walked the tarmac to Mr. Kennedy’s Piper Saratoga 32.

Lauren Bessette, an older sister of Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Carolyn, started as an analyst at Morgan Stanley in 1987, a year after her graduation from Hobart and William Smith College. In 1989, she left Morgan Stanley to attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving her M.B.A. in 1991, it was back to Morgan Stanley.

“She was very professional,” said one former Morgan Stanley executive who worked with Ms. Bessette in the early 90′s. “At that time, most of the women who really came across well were typical career women–meaning, very, very much focused on the career, really trying to kick ass. She was much more balanced.”

“She was an unusually attractive woman,” said another colleague. “She was really kind of a knockout. I thought she was beautiful, and I was just struck.”

Ms. Bessette graduated from Greenwich High School in 1982. At Hobart and William Smith College in rural Geneva, N.Y., she majored in economics. Her teachers said she was assiduous.

“You would like to have a roomful of Laurens,” said Prof. Daniel McGowan, who gave her an A for her work in Monetary Theory and Policy, a course he believes piqued her interest in Wall Street. “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.”

Ms. Bessette, who died at 34, grew up with sisters Carolyn, one year her junior, and Lisa Ann, her identical twin, in Greenwich, Conn. Her father, William Bessette, is an architectural engineer, and her mother, Ann, is a teacher and administrator. When the Bessette girls were young, their parents divorced. Afterward, Ann married Richard Freeman, an orthopedic surgeon. The Freemans now live in Old Greenwich, Conn. Mr. Bessette lives in White Plains, N.Y. The family has requested minimal coverage of the tragic deaths of their daughters.

In 1994, Lauren Bessette opted for a four-year stint in Morgan Stanley’s Hong Kong office. There, she helped execute capital-markets transactions. During her time there, in 1996, Morgan Stanley promoted her to vice president.

“It was hard on single women,” said another firm source, who knew her in Hong Kong. “It’s very family-oriented; most people who go out there are married. In a way, it’s a hardship, because it doesn’t make it any easier for them to find somebody to marry.”

Her twin sister, Lisa Ann Bessette, has taken a somewhat different course: After graduating from the University of Michigan, she is reported to have been pursuing a doctorate in Renaissance studies in Munich.

In February 1998, Lauren Bessette returned to Morgan Stanley’s Manhattan offices and in December was promoted from vice president to principal, a job title one level below managing director in the company hierarchy. She spent her days pitching investment ideas to the firm’s major private equity clients. Soon after her promotion, she agreed to buy a $925,000 artist’s loft at 17 White Street, a few blocks from the converted warehouse on N. Moore Street where sister Carolyn had lived since her marriage to Mr. Kennedy in 1996.

Ms. Bessette was reportedly seeing film and television producer Bobby Shriver, 45, the son of Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, aunt and uncle of John F. Kennedy Jr. Sources close to the family say Bessette was on her way to visit Mr. Shriver on Martha’s Vineyard the night of July 16. The couple would have stayed the weekend at the Kennedy-Onassis retreat near the town of Gay Head.

Carolyn Bessette and John Kennedy lived surrounded by the media; their deaths have been much noted. To those who knew Lauren Bessette, there seems to be something incongruous about that; she wasn’t famous, but she was an accomplished woman, toughing it out and enjoying herself in a male-dominated field. One former colleague, freshly familiar with the tragic news, said: “She may have been more successful than they were.”

Lauren Bessette Mourned

Americans have come to know her as John F. Kennedy Jr.'s sister-in-law, or as the unknown family member who hitched a ride on a doomed plane one recent hazy, moonless night.

But those who really knew her say Lauren Bessette was revered here and abroad for her financial prowess and her statuesque beauty.

"I know Lauren would not want to be remembered as a Morgan Stanley employee or the sister-in-law of someone famous," said Helen Kirwan-Taylor, a London Daily Telegraph columnist and Bessette friend.

"Being an individual for her was everything. She wanted to be recognized for herself," Kirwan-Taylor said recently.

On Saturday evening, Bessette was eulogized at an invitation-only service at a Greenwich, Conn., church. More than 400 people were invited to the candlelight service. Bessette's mother, stepfather and twin sister, Lisa, attended, as did Sen. Ted Kennedy.

"This is hometown to them," said Rev. Hugh Tudor-Foley, assistant to the rector at Christ Church in Greenwich. "The family felt it was appropriate to have a service here."

But Bessette's remains had already been cremated and consigned to the sea. Last week, her family decided she would be buried with her sister and brother-in-law off Martha's Vineyard, not far from where she died. Bessette, described as imposing, brilliant and beautiful, was the older sister of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s wife.

The three Bessette girls grew up in Greenwich. Lauren, like the other girls, lived a life of privilege, attending Greenwich High School, then Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. Her father is an architectural engineer, her stepfather, an orthopedic surgeon. Her mother is a teacher and administrator.

After college, Lauren Bessette carved out a successful career as a financial analyst.

"She was definitely honors material," college professor Daniel McGowan recalled in the New York Observer this week. "You would like to have a roomful of Laurens."

Her appearance attracted just as much notice.

"She was an unusually attractive woman," a colleague told reporters this week. "She was really kind of a knockout. I thought she was beautiful, and I was just struck."

In 1987, Bessette started a job as an analyst for Morgan Stanley. By 1989, she left Morgan Stanley to return to graduate school at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her MBA.

She then returned to Morgan Stanley, where she remained till her death, traveling in 1994 to Hong Kong with the company. There, she worked to execute capital-markets transactions and was promoted to vice president in 1996. When she returned to Manhattan in February 1998, she was more successful than ever. She was again promoted and was able to buy a loft a few blocks from the one shared by her famous brother-in-law and sister.

"She was doing all the right things, was promoted on a fast-track basis, and when she decided to go back to New York, it left a hole in the office," former boss Michael Berchtold, of Morgan Stanley, told the Hong Kong Standard this week.

Bessette enjoyed herself in a male-dominated business. And she excelled."She may have been more successful than they were," one colleague told a reporter.

But while she was confident about her intelligence and her good looks, she was shy about media attention. She rarely talked about her sister's fame and seemed proud that she dodged the media, according to friends.

She was witty, bright, unassuming.

And she had an "attitude" men could spot from a mile away.

"Lauren was powerful, and she knew it," said Kirwan-Taylor. "Low self-esteem was not one of her problems."

According to one report, Bessette was reportedly seeing Robert Shriver, 45, JFK Jr.'s cousin, at the time of her death.

And, according to the New York Observer, it was Shriver she was reportedly headed to see the night of July 16, when she boarded Kennedy's ill-fated Piper Saratoga en route to Martha's Vineyard.

"Lauren was telling my wife how she was going to Martha's Vineyard, and they would get together when they got back," longtime friend Victor Chu told the South China Morning Post. "She was rushing off."

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