Video: Rose Kennedy's mementos

By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 10/5/2006 7:31:10 PM ET 2006-10-05T23:31:10

NEW YORK — An exhibit at the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum explores the life of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy through personal papers and photographs that were donated to the library by her family in 2004. This historical collection spans 1878 to 1995. The grand matriarch of what's been called America's Royal Family apparently kept everything — every letter, every memento and scrap of paper. There are close to 200,000 items.

Some are intensely personal. They weave a portrait of a life that was both charmed and tragic.

In a note to his mother, a young schoolboy named John Kennedy, the future president of the United States, misspells his own name. There are so many "Dear Mother" letters. In one, her son Jack, all grown up and in the White House, gently scolds his mother for writing Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev, asking that he autograph some photos.

The president said to his mother, quote: "Requests of this nature are subject to interpretations, and therefore I would like to have you clear them before they are sent. "Rose Kennedy wrote back to her son the way only a mother can: "I am so glad you warned me about contacting heads of state ... as I was just about to write to Castro."

On the subject of raising children, she was confident her way was the right way. When asked if she ever spanked JFK, she said yes, adding that it was a "most effective means of instruction."

And for the first time, the collection shows us just how deep the bond was between Mrs. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Rose wrote in 1970: "I am sure we would top any daughter-mother-in-law-team." And the feeling was clearly mutual.

But this family, to whom so much was given, also faced, of course, extraordinary challenges and tragedy. Rose spoke frequently about her daughter Rosemary's mental disability.

Rose Kennedy outlived four of her children, and she lived with that grief, which she talks about in this journal entry: "My reaction to grief is a certain kind of nervous action. I just keep moving, walking, pulling away at things, praying to myself while I move, and making up my mind that it is not going to get me. I am not going to be licked by tragedy."

"I just have faith I think, I can still accept the trials and tribulations which God has sent me."

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