by OPC Past President William J. Holstein
We have lost the great Jacqueline Albert Simon, or Jackie to most of us. She spent nearly 30 years on the boards of both the OPC and the OPC Foundation. As best I can recollect, I met her when I joined the OPC board in 1991. She was a demure, small, quiet-spoken woman in a room filled with shouting men, primarily H.L. Stevenson and Victor Reisel. She seemed oddly out of place, but she was committed to our causes and believed in everything both the club and foundation stood for. She took an immediate interest in me and my work and I in her work with Politique Internationale, the Paris-based equivalent of Foreign Affairs. We helped each other through the losses of our respective spouses. We used to have lunches at a small Italian place near her glorious apartment on Fifth Avenue, overlooking the Metropolitan Museum. Or on special occasions, she would put together dinner parties in her apartment, filled with beautiful art. Surprisingly, for someone of significant means, she preferred eccentrics and oddballs over stuffed shirts.
Her late husband, Pierre, was the American liaison between the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) and the French resistance during World War II and afterward helped France rebuild its military. The money flowed, as did an elegant social life. She knew everybody including Jackie Kennedy before she was Jackie Kennedy. She interviewed Richard Nixon twice. She knew John Kenneth Galbraith and I suspect they were fond of each other following the death of Pierre, but I’ll never tell. And she dragged me along for an interview with Paul Volcker for Politique Internationale. Her great skill was getting the big interview and then conducting it in style even when someone such as Volcker towered over her.
Her contributions to the club and foundation were many and lasting. She never wanted to be outfront on an issue. She preferred operating in support of others. She helped defuse difficult personal and political situations. She was a reference point, an arbiter of what was fair. She most likely made quiet contributions to every president of the club, although she was so discreet she never told. She encouraged and supported Sonya Fry, Jane Reilly and Patricia Kranz as they were launching their directorships, as well as other female board members. She was treasurer of the OPC for several years and led a program committee that put on a number of fine events.
At the foundation, on whose board she sat until she died, she contributed to the I.F. Stone award, with Rick MacArthur, and endowed the Flora Lewis award herself. She had a deep friendship with Flora, a somewhat crusty scribe not known for tolerating fools. She told Jackie, as I recall the story, “You’re so beautiful but you need to have someone smart on your side.”
“Who would that be?” Jackie responded.
Jackie adored the young women who won the Flora Lewis award and kept in touch with them for years, offering wise words of counsel and support. As a group, they have flourished.
Allan Dodds Frank, Larry Martz, Sonya Fry and I were in touch with her in her final weeks. She accepted that the cancer was going to end her life because she could not withstand the treatments. But she was a very classy lady to the end, telling Allan and me, “I lived a good life. Don’t be sorry for me.” She went out on her own terms. As Larry put it, paraphrasing now, she was Jackie to the very end.