JFK Jr.'s Assistant Remembers Camelot's Prince

From the time he was a child, John F. Kennedy Jr. captured America's attention.

The country watched the prince of Camelot grow from young boy to idealistic lawyer and then a loving husband. Though he was under the constant heat of the spotlight, Kennedy always fought for normalcy in his life.

Few people knew the junior Kennedy better than Rose Marie Terenzio, his personal assistant and confidant. Their friendship blossomed through a chance encounter.

Kennedy was starting George magazine and renting office space in Manhattan. The political magazine shared the same floor as the public relations company where Terenzio worked.

VIDEO: 10 Years Later: JFK Jr.Play

"He moved into my office one weekend and I came in on Monday morning and I was not pleased," Terenzio said. "And as someone once said, who was in the office at the time, 'You could have been arrested in some states for the way you just spoke to him.'"

Terenzio and Kennedy's early interactions couldn't have foreshadowed their future close relationship.

"I wouldn't say I didn't like him. I would say I was sort of indifferent to him, which is probably worse," Terenzio said.

But thanks to Kennedy's charm, the relationship warmed quickly.

Video of Ted and Caroline Kennedy paying tribute to the late John F. Kennedy.Play

"I think John's wit and sense of humor was what really won me over," said Terenzio. "He was very wise. He was very intelligent, and he was also someone who loved practical jokes."

Terenzio worked closely with Kennedy and helped him grow his magazine and business. She came to appreciate his style.

"There's something about manners that go a long way, and John had impeccable manners. And it wasn't something that he thought about. And I think the fact that he never -- he rarely made assumptions. He went into every situation open," she said.

Though Terenzio said Kennedy did entertain the idea of entering the political arena, his first priority was his magazine.

"What he was really doing was focusing on making George successful, and he was really proud of it," Terenzio said.

Only then would the idea of politics become more viable.

"I think that it was something that he thought about it," Terenzio said. "There was certainly an interest, but I think that John was someone who thought when you and if you do this, you need to do it very carefully, and you need to be really prepared."

John F. Kennedy Jr.'s Death 'Difficult'

Terenzio worked with Kennedy until the July 1999 plane crash off the coast of Martha's Vineyard that killed him, his wife and sister-in-law.

When Terenzio first received word of the accident, she tried to retain hope.

"The only thing that I could do was to behave as if he were still there," she said.

But when his death was confirmed, Terenzio had to look to the words Kennedy often used to gain comfort.

"'Nothing is ever as good or as bad as the current situation will have you believe,'" Terenzio said Kennedy used to say." "It's a great lesson. I say it to myself a lot."

Losing her close friend so suddenly was difficult for Terenzio.

"You lose someone dramatically, it's very difficult, you're not prepared," she said. "I think for me, I lost a mentor, a great teacher and a very dear friend."

Today Terenzio hopes to keep the memory of Kennedy alive by reminding the world about his organization, Reaching Up.

Kennedy founded the nonprofit organization in 1989 to offer educational opportunities to health care workers who aid the disabled. The organization was combined with the City University of New York to create the John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute at CUNY.

"It was really important to John that this program survive without him," Terenzio said. "And I think he'd be really, really proud of the work they're doing today."

It's a way for Terenzio to remember and honor a close friend.

Click here to learn more about the John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute at CUNY.