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Mike D’Orso found that out the hard way. Then a newspaper reporter for The Virginian-Pilot, his phone rang one day and the caller said: “Hello, it’s Jacqueline Onassis.”

“Yeah, right,” he laughed, and hung up.

“Luckily, Jackie called back,” D’Orso said in a telephone interview from his home in Norfolk, Va. “And that’s how my career as an author got started. I owe it all to her.” She edited two of his books, including his 1988 “Somerset Homecoming,” the story of a black woman who helped save the plantation where her ancestors had been slaves.

D’Orso says Jackie didn’t even mind when his 7-year-old daughter answered the phone one day, then passed it to him, shouting, “Daddy, it’s the dead president’s wife!”

“She just laughed it off,” says D’Orso. He was going through a divorce at the time, and he says the two often had conversations about it. Despite their long collaboration, though, the working relationship stayed on the phone: They never met in person.

Though a friendly editor, Jackie could be a demanding one, says Kuhn, who relates exchanges she had with Stewart Udall, a former secretary of the interior under JFK. Udall was writing a book on Spanish exploration in the southwest. In a series of letters, Jackie tussled with him tooth and nail on certain points of Spanish history, not backing down.

Jackie surely would have loved to continue editing books for decades more, but it was not to be. In January of 1994, after months of feeling unwell, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She continued to work even as she underwent chemotherapy and began losing ground to the disease.

“One day, she came in wearing a wig,” says Tracy. “And I thought, wow, that’s not her usual style. She told us in February that she had this illness, and it was just like she was saying, `Remind me to send so-and-so a letter.’ Self-pity was just not in her playbook.”

She died on May 19. The next day, her son, John Kennedy, Jr., told the assembled media that his mother had died “surrounded by her friends and her family and her books and the people and the things she loved.”

Lawrence, just one of the many authors whose careers she touched, says that one of the most revealing anecdotes he’s ever heard about Jackie came from a friend, editor Joe Armstrong, who visited her in Martha’s Vineyard less than a year before she died.

“I remember in her living room she had all these books,” Armstrong told Lawrence.

“And she said, `These are my other best friends.’”