John F. Kennedy Jr. tried hard to live independently of the celebrity culture that engulfed his family. He carved out a credible role in the world of journalism, founding and publishing a magazine of commentary, George, that has won an avid readership in Washington's halls of power.
As others have noted, Mr. Kennedy was beginning to settle into a life of hard work that had a value of its own - separate from the aura of his famous name.
Hence the irony that the tragic plane crash off Martha's Vineyard, taking his life and that of his wife and sister-in-law, brought a global resurgence of the Kennedy nostalgia.
That, perhaps, was inevitable. The family's litany of tragedy has been endlessly recounted. The "Camelot" years of the early 1960s have been evoked. Irresponsible and unhelpful talk of a Kennedy "curse" all too easily flies around.
All this can get in the way of what's basic to this story - that a young man of considerable promise, who embodied some of the best impulses of his generation, has been lost. In tributes to Kennedy, colleagues have emphasized his interest in public service and his desire to help America become a better country.
The greatest honor that can be paid John F. Kennedy Jr. and his family is for other young people to follow his lead and find their own ways to advance the public good.
Encouraging just such career choices was high among the hopes Kennedy had for his publishing enterprise.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society