Days before the doomed trip to Dallas, President John F. Kennedy gave her a call. He said his first lady needed an outfit appropriate for Texas weather. So Providencia Paredes picked out a pink Chanel suit and matching hat now remembered hauntingly in photographs from his assassination on Nov 22, 1963.
When Jacqueline Kennedy returned to the White House the next morning, Paredes took the suit — stained with the president’s blood — shoved it in a bag and hid it.
“She always trusted me,” Paredes once told Fox News. “We were always together.”
Paredes, the former first lady’s personal assistant, died on March 18 in Washington, her son, Gustavo Paredes, announced on social media. She was 90.
From 1959 to 1965, Paredes was the woman behind Jackie Kennedy, tracking her engagements and taking her phone calls. She coordinated with designers and chose her clothes. She helped her with her Spanish accent. She was Jackie’s right hand. And she was her friend.
She was a “pioneer, role model and icon for many,” Gustavo Paredes said on social media, noting that she is believed to be the first Latino to work in the president’s inner circle, according to the Associated Press. He called her “a woman of immense will, passion, curiosity and a zest for life.”
Providencia Paredes was born in 1924 in the Dominican Republic’s San Pedro de Macoris. In her early 20s, she was working for the ambassador to the United States from the Dominican Republic, Luis Francisco Thomen, when she met a handsome congressman from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy.
When Kennedy took his seat in the U.S. Senate, he asked her come work for him and, later, to assist his new bride with her personal affairs.
“When he moved to the White House he said, ‘I want Provi, because she’s the best,’ ” Gustavo said, according to the AP. “That’s how she ended up as Jackie’s personal assistant.”
For years, she stayed by Jackie Kennedy’s side. She went with the presidential couple on most of their vacations and business trips. She missed out on two — the last of which was Dallas.
“It was rare, because they took me all over the country and the world,” she told Fox News Latino in 2013.
Jackie called Paredes hours after her husband’s death, saying she needed a change of clothes. Her pink suit was soiled with blood and bad memories from a day that America wanted to forget but never would.
“I got a blue outfit and sent it to her right away,” she told Fox News Latino. “I had just found out earlier about what happened to the president.”
Before sunrise the next day, Jackie was back in Washington. She bathed and changed clothes. Paredes puttered around in the first lady’s dressing room, organizing her outfits, her shoes, her jewelry – anything to keep her busy. She didn’t want to leave Jackie’s side.
“I just wanted to be near her,” she said.
“She was scared,” Paredes told People in 2013. “She cried and she said, ‘I thought they might kill me too.'”
Over the years, Paredes had grown close to the Kennedys. They helped her relatives come to the United States from the Dominican Republic. They incorporated her and her sons into their lives. And, when Jackie died, she left money to her in her will.
“He and Jacqueline were always very good to me, and my children and whole family,” she told Fox News Latino.
Paredes continued to work for the family even after she left the former first lady. She took a job with U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy and worked with him until his 1968 assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. She joined Sen. Ted Kennedy’s team until his 1969 car accident on Chappaquiddick Island on Martha’s Vineyard, which resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne and would ultimately put an end to Ted Kennedy’s presidential ambitions.
Her last job was working for the U.S. Postal Service. She retired in 1992.
“She broke the barrier of what an American was: She was making trips with the president, representing the aspiration of the American dream,” Gustavo said. “From her humble beginnings in the Dominican Republic, she ended up flying around the world representing the country of her birth as well as her newfound country.”