Inside People

updated 06/16/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/16/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Gail Cameron Wescott first met Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960. Gail was a young New York City reporter with a knack for getting people to open up; Jackie was a U.S. senator's wife not yet press-shy. Wescott, now a special correspondent for PEOPLE in Atlanta, shares her intimate moments with the former First Lady on page 90 of this commemorative issue.

Wescott's reminiscence is one way we have tried to bring you closer to the woman whose combination of high style and high character was her defining quality. Few of us had met Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis—she was certainly the most famous person I had never met—though all of us at PEOPLE felt her presence, both on the streets of the city we shared and in our pages, beginning in 1974 with the first of 12 covers on which she appeared.

Just hours after Jackie's death, executive editor Susan Toepfer assembled a team to plan this newsstand-only tribute. "Given the strong reaction to the Audrey Hepburn issue published by PEOPLE last year, we knew our readers would want a special on Jackie," says Toepfer. Deputy art director Hillie Pitzer worked through the weekend on designs, while photo editor Sarah Rozen pored over some 2,000 photos.

Meanwhile, 39 correspondents and reporters, directed by senior editor Elizabeth Sporkin, talked to friends of Jackie's who until now had guarded her privacy. Washington bureau chief Garry Clifford spoke to Joseph Heiberger, who taught her to use a camera as an inquiring photographer. New York City correspondent Maria Efti-miades learned details of her dealings with Michael Jackson on his book, Moonwalk.

This issue passed through many hands—fact checkers, copy editors, page coders, imaging specialists—and almost all felt a connection with the woman on the cover. We hope these pages express that bond—and the one felt by our readers—for the remarkable woman who was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

(The family of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis requests that donations in her memory be sent to the New York Hospital Cancer Research Fund, 525 East 68th St., New York, N.Y. 10021.)

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