College girlfriends vouch for Mimi's character: She's no Monica
by Jules Crittenden, Franci Richardson and Maggie Mulvihill
Sunday, May 18, 2003
Among the elite young socialites of Wheaton College in the early 1960s, Mimi Beardsley was part of the most envied clique - the most attractive, wealthiest, brightest and most charming girls at the toney school south of Boston.
That she could sign herself out on weekends with the words that she would be traveling with ``The President of the United States'' only added to her status.
No one then imagined the truth, that the demure former White House intern, now known as Marion ``Mimi'' Fahnestock, was having an extended affair with President John F. Kennedy.
It was a secret she kept until last week, when she made the remarkable admission that she was indeed ``Mimi,'' whose story is detailed by historian Robert Dallek in his new JFK biography.
Family and friends were quick to defend her last week, saying there is no comparison to a more recent White House sex scandal.
``This is not Monica Lewinsky,'' said Mimi's aunt, Anne Ellis, who lives in the wealthy New Jersey suburbs where Mimi was raised. While Monica's gabbing was her undoing and she has capitalized on her notoriety, Mimi quietly went on with her life.
``She was a better catch for him (JFK) than Lewinsky was for Clinton,'' said classmate Susan McGunigle Linell. Mary Cleaves Guignard said, ``If you knew her, you could understand why he was attracted to her. She was lovely, well-traveled, very charming, very bright.''
But Jane Chittick noted, ``It was not common to be sleeping with someone. It was a different generation. She's not someone I considered to be fast. I would not have picked Mimi at all.''
Even her closest friends say they never suspected. ``She never said a word. Can you imagine that, in a dorm, in a women's college?'' said Kirke Dyett Huffard, a former roommate and lifelong friend. ``For 41 years, she has never said a word to anyone. It says to me that she had tremendous character.''
Huffard would say little more, except to add, ``She has no reason to bow her head.''
Mimi represented the height of society, from a wealthy New Jersey family, schooled at Miss Porter's School. At Wheaton College in Norton, Mimi was considered one of the best catches.
Mimi used her connections to get an interview with another Miss Porter alumna, Jacqueline Kennedy. That led to the White House internship, where the young socialite caught JFK's notoriously wandering eye. Dallek reports that the affair was widely known within the White House - and remarked upon by Jackie - as Mimi partied with JFK and accompanied him on trips, even as he defused the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The sexual affair began in June of 1962 and lasted until JFK's assassination in November of 1963, by Mimi's own account. She was dating her future husband, the late investment banker Anthony Fahnestock, a Williams College man, at the time. She has refused to comment on what she told her husband. She became engaged to him during the affair and married him six weeks after Kennedy's assassination, the New York Daily News reported.
The grandmother of four had two daughters with Fahnestock, who learned of their mother's tryst with history last week. At the upscale Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Mimi is an administrator, the Rev. J. Oscar McCloud said, ``She's the nicest person in the world. I have the utmost confidence in her.''
Wheaton classmates consider the entire affair history now. ``It really shouldn't matter,'' said Diana Walker Clymer. ``This is the spice of life . . . I just hope she writes a book. I can't wait for our reunion. I hope she comes.''