May 13 - 1948: Kathleen Kennedy, 28, Marchioness of Hartington, dies in plane crash

2005: Department of Defense closes Otis Air Force Base
Kathleen, Marchioness of Hartington. Public Domain/U.S. Govt. photo.

1948: Kathleen Kennedy dies on way to seek father's blessings on her wedding

"Most exciting debutante of 1938" she was dead ten years later

On this day in 1948, Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington, the second daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., sister of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and widow of the heir to the Devonshire dukedom, died in a plane crash en route to secure her father's blessings on her second marriage. She was born on February 20, 1920, and was only 28 at the time of her death.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed JFK's father Joseph Kennedy ambassador to the Court of St. James, his daughter Kathleen spent a year and a half living in London. She was educated in London at Queen's College.

Beautiful and spirited, she was named the "most exciting debutante of 1938." In 1943 she returned to England to work in a center for servicemen set up by the Red Cross.

Despite the opposition of her intensely Catholic mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, known to friends as "Kick", married William John Robert Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, a Protestant and the eldest son and heir of the 10th Duke of Devonshire on May 6, 1944.

1944 was a year of deaths

Other than her eldest brother Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. who died in a plane crash three months after the wedding, no one from the Kennedy family attended the marriage ceremony. Her husband was killed in action only four months later in World War II, and his younger brother Andrew Cavendish, married to Deborah Mitford, became the heir to the dukedom.  See the newspaper report of her death on right.

Popular on the London social circuit and admired by many for her high spirits - though more traditional members of British society found fault with her boisterousness - the dashing young widow eventually became the mistress of Peter Wentworth-FitzWilliam, 8th Earl FitzWilliam. The couple planned to wed after Fitzwilliam's planned divorce. Instead, while on a trip to visit Joseph Kennedy Sr. and gain his blessing for their relationship, Lord Fitzwilliam and Lady Hartington died in an airplane crash in Saint-Bauzile, Ardèche, France.

Religious prejudice to the grave and beyond

Only her father represented the Kennedy family at her funeral. Her mother, Rose, declined to attend supposedly because of Kathleen's intention to marry outside the Catholic Church a second time.

It is also said that Rose Kennedy also discouraged Kathleen's siblings from attending for the same reason. Rose apparently forgave Kathleen not long thereafter, and in 1951, she was reportedly delighted that her first grandchild, Robert F. Kennedy's daughter, Kathleen Hartington Kennedy, was named after her late daughter. However, the family requested that the child not be nicknamed Kick.

The Marchioness of Hartington is buried in the Cavendish family plot at Saint Peter's Church, Edensor, near Chatsworth in Derbyshire, England. Among the wreaths that covered her coffin was one with a handwritten note from Sir Winston Churchill. The gymnasium at Manhattanville College is named in her honor.


2005: The day they closed Otis Air Force Base

On this day in 2005 the U.S. Department of Defense changed its mind about base closings, and that was the end of Otis NG as an air base.

The largest New England facilities saved by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) were the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, in Maine, and the Naval Submarine Base New London, in Connecticut -- each with thousands of jobs. Then, on its last day of deliberations, the BRAC unexpectedly reversed the Defense Department's proposed expansion of Hanscom Air Force Base, outside Boston, and voted to close Otis Air National Guard Base, on Cape Cod, with plans to send its fighter jets to Barnes Air National Guard Base, in Greater Springfield.

Otis was later removed from the list on August 26, 2005, although the jets were still transferred to Barnes. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on