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Friends, Colleagues Reflect on Life of Lauren Bessette

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Lauren Gail Bessette, 34, who died along with her younger sister Carolyn and brother-in-law John F. Kennedy Jr. in the crash of Kennedy’s plane off Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Friday night, was a highly successful financial executive with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Friends and colleagues described her as brilliant and driven, with a dry sense of humor and a nearly photographic memory.

“Lauren was truly one of the most beloved and admired members of our investment banking group,” said Jeanmarie McFadden, a spokeswoman for the financial giant where Bessette had worked for eight years. “She was a warm, dynamic, vivacious and fun-loving person, full of spirit and life.”

Bessette and her twin sister, Lisa Ann, were the first children born to Ann and William Bessette. Carolyn, 33, was 18 months younger. The couple divorced when the twins were 8. The children were raised by their mother and her second husband, Richard Freeman, chief of orthopedics at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, N.Y.

Bessette was a 1982 graduate of Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Conn.

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After high school, Bessette moved on to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York, where she majored in economics.

Patrick McGuire, her college faculty advisor, described her as “a very bright, articulate and very confident young woman.”

“She was exceptional,” McGuire said. “She was a very good student and a very pleasant person to be around.”

After college, she moved to New York City, working at a number of investment firms before returning to school to pursue an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s elite Wharton School.

Degree in hand, she moved to Hong Kong and took a position with the investment group Victor Chu Inc., before joining Morgan Stanley’s Hong Kong office. There, Bessette, who was fluent in Mandarin Chinese, was responsible for transactions in Hong Kong, India, China and Singapore.

Bessette moved back to the United States in the spring of 1998, joining the firm’s investment banking division in New York. She bought a co-op apartment just blocks from the loft her sister shared with Kennedy.

In December, Bessette was promoted from vice president to a principal in the investment banking division.

Familiar with press scrutiny after her sister’s relationship with Kennedy became the talk of New York some years ago, Bessette was very protective of the couple’s privacy.

Stacy Wreckerling, a high school friend, recalled that when Bessette flew home in 1994 to attend the wedding of a friend, all the guests wanted to talk about the rumors.

But Bessette made clear that she was not saying a word.

“She was very protective of her sister,” Wreckerling said. “We were really taken aback.”


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