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A Man Of The <i>People</i>

In life John F. Kennedy Jr. appeared more than a dozen times on the cover of People magazine, reports CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Thalia Assuras. Now he appears again, this time in a commemorative issue, a tribute to his life in pictures.

What those pictures show, says People executive editor Susan Toepfer, is a life well lived.

"I think what we're happy to see is what a normal childhood he had and what a happy childhood," she says. "People were concerned about the children after the president was assassinated."

About a month after his father's death, JFK Jr. was playing in the park with a Secret Service agent when a photographer approached him. Said the child, "Why are you taking my picture? My daddy is dead."

He was just 3 years old, and he already realized why he was the center of attention.

"He had a good attitude about it," says Toepfer. "He was used to it. He took it for granted."

In many childhood photos of JFK Jr., he is seen clutching toy planes and helicopters.

"He had a lifelong fascination with flying, probably because he saw his father leave in a helicopter or plane all the time," says the editor.

Photos of JFK Jr. and his sister, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, illustrate a strong bond between the siblings.

"You see they're intimate, sharing secrets," observes Toepfer. "In public situations, they're whispering. You can tell they were very close. He himself said that nobody could really realize how close they were. He was very grateful, especially after his mother died, that he did have this relationship."

But don't expect Caroline to pose for a People cover any time soon. "Caroline is private," says Toepfer. "She's also a mother of young children. She lives a very family-oriented life."

One of the photos in the People special issue shows JFK Jr. squeezing into a crowded New York subway.

"He insisted on leading the life of average New Yorkers," explains Toepfer. "He said, 'Limos aren't for me.' He didn't care whether he was caught on camera, squeezing into a subway. I think his mother was sometimes afraid for his safety, but he went ahead and lived the life he wanted to."

By marrying JFK Jr., Carolyn Bessette automatically was drawn into a life in front of the camera.

"This is a big change for someone not used to it," says Toepfer. "But Carolyn did become adroit at avoiding the paparazzi. She would go out without makeup and a hat over her head and often nobody would recognize her."

But, if she was accompanying her husband to promote his magazine, George, she would pose endlessly for the photographers, "because that was very important to him," says Toepfer.

With the death of JFK Jr., will media attention cool for the surviving Kennedys?

"This is one of the great American families, so we'll continue to watch them,"Toepfer. "But certainly one of the shining stars is gone, so we'll have to see who emerges in the future."

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