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Joan Bennett Kennedy
Born Virginia Joan Bennett
September 2, 1936 (1936-09-02) (age 73)
Riverdale, Bronx, New York, U.S.
Residence Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation Musician, writer, model
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Edward "Ted" Moore Kennedy (1958–1982, divorced)
Children Kara Anne Kennedy (born 1960)
Edward Moore Kennedy, Jr. (born 1961)
Patrick Joseph Kennedy II (born 1967)
Parents Henry Wiggin Bennett, Jr. and Virginia Joan (née Stead) Bennett
Relatives see Kennedy family

Joan Bennett Kennedy (born September 2, 1936) is an American musician, writer and former model. She is the former wife of U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Edward "Ted" Moore Kennedy.[1]


Early life

She was born Virginia Joan Bennett in Riverdale, a neighborhood of The Bronx borough of New York City, New York, to Henry Wiggin Bennett, Jr. and Virginia Joan (née Stead) Bennett, both of whom were alcoholics.[2] She attended Manhattanville College (then a Sacred Heart Academy) in Purchase, New York, which is also the alma mater of Jean Kennedy Smith and Ethel Skakel Kennedy, her future sisters-in-law.

As a teenager, she worked as a model in television advertising.[3]

Marriage and divorce

In October 1957, at the dedication of a gymnasium in memory of another Kennedy sister, Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington — who had died in a plane crash in 1948 — Jean Kennedy introduced Joan to her brother Ted, then a student at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville.[4]

They were married on November 29, 1958, in Bronxville, New York. Her brother-in-law John F. Kennedy dubbed her "the dish" because of her good looks and fashionable style.[4]

They had three children: Kara Anne (née Kennedy) Allen (born February 27, 1960, in Bronxville), Edward Moore Kennedy, Jr. (born September 26, 1961), and Patrick Joseph Kennedy II (born July 14, 1967).

Two of their children would later develop cancer. Edward developed bone cancer that resulted in the removal of a portion of a leg in 1973 and Kara was treated for lung cancer in 2003.[5]

Her husband suffered a severe back injury in an airplane crash while campaigning for his first full term in the U.S. Senate. She assumed the full campaign-appearance schedule for his successful re-election in 1964. He had earlier won a special election in November 1962 to serve the final two years of his brother John's U.S. Senate term; John had resigned from the U.S. Senate upon his 1960 election as U.S. President.

In July 1969, her husband was involved in a car accident off Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts that killed his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne.[6] Although pregnant and confined to bed in the wake of two previous miscarriages, she attended Kopechne's funeral. Three days later she stood beside her husband in court when he pleaded guilty to having left the scene of an accident.[7] She suffered a third miscarriage shortly thereafter.[8]

In early 1978, the couple separated.[9] She subsequently gave interviews with People and McCall's confirming her alcoholism and her work to stay sober.[10] The couple remained together during his failed 1980 U.S. presidential campaign, announcing plans to divorce in 1981; the divorce was finalized in 1982.[11]

Later life, career and chronic alcoholism

As a resident of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Boston, Massachusetts,[3] she has worked with children's charities, remains an accomplished pianist and has taught children classical music.[12]

In 1992, she published the book The Joy of Classical Music: A Guide for You and Your Family.

Her later years have been shaped by chronic alcoholism, which had appeared during her marriage. It escalated with sporadic, uneven sobriety, repeated drunk-driving arrests,[3] court-ordered rehabilitation,[3] and a return to drinking. This ultimately led to kidney damage, with the possibility of dialysis[4] and protracted complications from increasingly strict legal guardianship.

In 2005, she was hospitalized with a concussion and a broken shoulder after being found lying in a Boston street near her home.[3][13]

In July 2004, her son Edward had been appointed her legal guardian; in 2005 her children were granted temporary guardianship.[14]

At her request in 2005, her second cousin, financial planner Webster E. Janssen of Connecticut, established a trust controlling her estate in violation of her sons' guardianship. Her children later took successful legal action against Janssen, removing him as trustee and later filing a complaint against him with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.[15] She agreed to strict court-ordered guardianship and her estate has since been placed in a new trust overseen by two court-appointed trustees.[4]

She was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery in October 2005.[16]

Apart from a brief relationship shortly after her divorce, she has neither remarried nor pursued another relationship.[4] She attended the funeral mass for Senator Edward Kennedy at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.[17]

See also


  • Kennedy, Joan Bennett (1992). The Joy of Classical Music: A Guide for You and Your Family. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, New York. ISBN 9780385412629.


  • Chellis, Marcia (1985). Living with the Kennedys: The Joan Kennedy Story. Simon & Shuster. ISBN 978-0816140589.
  • Taraborrelli, J. Randy (2000). Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot. Warner Books, New York. ISBN 0-446-52426-3.  


  1. ^ "American Experience: The Kennedys". PBS. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  
  2. ^ Boston Magazine: The Fall of Joan
  3. ^ a b c d e Lindsay, Jay (2005-04-02). "Joan Kennedy's troubles linked to alcohol struggle". The Associated Press via Deseret News. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  
  4. ^ a b c d e McPhee, Michelle; Wedge, Dave (2005-08). "The Fall of Joan". Boston. Retrieved 2008-05-04.  
  5. ^ Jacobs, Sally (2008-05-25). "Kennedy, his children, and cancer". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  
  6. ^ Bly, Nellie (1996). The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal and Secrets. Kensington Books, New York. p. 200. ISBN 1-575-66106-3.  
  7. ^ Taraborrelli, J. Randy (2000). pp. 395-396, 399.
  8. ^ Taraborrelli, J. Randy (2000). p. 192.
  9. ^ Staff writer (1979-11-05). "The Vulnerable Soul of Joansie". Time.,9171,912497,00.html. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  
  10. ^ Burke, Richard E.; Hoffer, Marilyn; Hoffer, William (1992). The Senator: My Ten Years with Ted Kennedy. St. Martin's Press. New York. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0312091347.  
  11. ^ Maier, Thomas (2003). The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings. Basic Books, New York. p. 555. ISBN 0-465-04317-8.  
  12. ^ Staff writer (undated). "Joan Bennett Kennedy Biography (1936- )". The Biography Channel. Retrieved 2009-08-28.  
  13. ^ Hancock, David (2005-03-30). "Joan Kennedy Unconscious in Street — Senator's Ex-Wife Recovering from Concussion, Broken Shoulder". The Associated Press via CBS News. Retrieved 2009-08-28.  
  14. ^ Johnson, Glenn (2005-02-25). "Kennedy's Children Become Her Guardians". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  
  15. ^ Ellement, John; Sacchetti, Maria (June 13, 2005). "Joan Kennedy, Children Reach Agreement — Medical, Financial Team, Rehab Cited". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 1, 2009.  
  16. ^ Staff writer (2005-10-15). "Rep. Kennedy Gets 'Personal' on Cancer — With Mother Ill, He Lauds Advocates". The Associated Press via The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-08-28.  
  17. ^ Report by Susan Donaldson James for Good Morning America, ABC News, 28 August 2009

External links

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