Only now, when fairy tales of the Kennedy era have been almost eclipsed by many other less romantic stories, comes a simple little love story by Gunilla von Post.
It was the early 1950's and there was Camelot, with the young Senator, later President John F. Kennedy and his glamorous wife, Jackie. But before that, and during that time too, there was Gunilla!
Only now, when fairy tales of the Kennedy era have been almost eclipsed by many other less romantic stories, comes a simple little love story by Gunilla von Post. Eager to show the tender side of the dashing Senator from Massachusetts, Gunilla, now 65, has told her own tale in a slender volume entitled, "Love, Jack".
The young Swedish aristocrat has treasured her own memories all these years until after the death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in order not to distress the widow of the martyred President. Now she has brought her story to the media, which half believing, half skeptical, has given her more than the Warhol fifteen minutes of publicity.
Apparently captivated by the story, ABC-TV's 20/20 program flew a crew to southern Sweden, photographed the area where Gunilla grew up and talked with friends and family who recalled Kennedy's visit there more than 40 years ago. The story was taken up by NBC's Extra and Gunilla was interviewed on the Today show. Throughout Gunilla has maintained her belief that Jack was really in love with her and it is a shining memory for her.
It all began in 1953 when Gunilla, 23, and a girl friend were vacationing on the French Riviera. Although she was from a wealthy family she had not received her allowance, and the two young women hitched-hiked and were picked up by a British gentleman. He sighted a friend, a tall young man named Jack, and the foursome went to dinner.
It was then that the romance began. Gunilla did not recognize the name Kennedy but was fascinated by the 36-year-old Senator. It was still at dinner when he declared that he had fallen in love with her instantly - in the same way he had done five years previously with Grace Kelly. Later after a passionate, if chaste, kiss, he revealed the fact that he was returning to the United States to be married - an event he would have called off if he had met her a little sooner.
Back in the United States the Kennedy-Bouvier wedding took place and the political rise of Kennedy continued. However communication with Gunilla also continued and there were phone calls and letters on U.S. Senate stationery with Jack promising to return to Europe and see her.
Various plans had to be changed, but two years after their first meeting, Jack Kennedy and a friend arrived in Båstad, Sweden. This time the romance was no longer platonic and the couple enjoyed a week of days and nights together, entertained by her friends and family, some of whom may not have known that he was married. Evident at the time was the severe back pain from which Kennedy suffered for the rest of his life.
After the visit Jack promised to talk to his father Joe, the ambitious patriarch who was determined to have a son in the White House. The response to the question of divorcing Jackie and marrying an unknown Swedish blonde beauty was vehemently negative, with the father pointing out his own romance with the Swedish descendent, Gloria Swanson.
After the first pregnancy of Jackie, Gunilla realized that a life with Jack was impossible. She refused an offer for her to come to the United States to live and work and incidentally see Jack on a continuing basis.
Life went on and she married a Swede, Anders Ekman, by whom she has two children. The last encounter with Jack was in 1958 at an April in Paris Ball at the Waldorf=Astoria which Gunilla attended with her husband and sister. A note to Jack sitting on the dais brought the two together in the corridor for a brief moment.
We all know the story of Kennedy's presidency, his murder, and the end of all the stories, fairy tales and other more sordid accounts of his alleged affairs. Gunilla's husband was killed in a plane accident, she married again, an American, and lived in the New York and Connecticut area.
Now she divides her time between Palm Beach, FL and Switzerland. She has many friends in the New York area and a son, Wisner Miller, an actor.
No, she has no regrets. Not for the romance with the married Kennedy nor for the revelation now of the story of that romance. To her it was a beautiful episode in her life and she wants to share with the world, revealing the tender side of the Jack Kennedy she knew - regardless of the other women who may have been part of his life in the time before and after their idyllic time together.
Alvalene P. Karlsson (September, 1997)
Love, Jack, Gunilla von Post with Carl Johnes. Hard cover, 158 pages, with photographs. Crown Publishers, $20.