AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Nellie Connally, the widow of former Texas Gov. John Connally, has died. She was the last survivor among those who were in President John F. Kennedy's limousine when he was assassinated in November 1963.
Connally died in her sleep late Friday or early Saturday at Westminster Manor in Austin, ;ongtime family friend Julian Read said. She was 87. She had lived at Westminster Manor for about a year after moving from Houston, said Read, who served as press secretary to Gov. Connally in the 1960s.
"She died peacefully in her sleep overnight," Read said Saturday. "Total surprise. She has been extremely active and vital the past few days and weeks... It's a shock to all of us."
Connally had said the most enduring image she had of that day in November 1963 in Dallas was of a mixture of blood and roses.
"It's the image of yellow roses and red roses and blood all over the car... all over us," she said in a 2003 interview with
The Associated Press. "I'll never forget it. ... It was so quick and so short, so potent."
As the limousine carrying the Connallys and the Kennedys wound its way through the friendly crowd in downtown Dallas, Nellie Connally turned to President Kennedy, who was in a seat behind her, and said, "Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you."
Almost immediately, she heard the first of what she later concluded were three gunshots in quick succession. Connally slumped after the second shot, and, "I never looked back again. I was just trying to take care of him," she said.
Anniversaries and inevitable media interviews followed the Connallys for decades to come.
She was active in numerous fundraising organizations. In 1989, Richard Nixon, Barbara Walters and Donald Trump turned out for a gala to honor her and help raise money for diabetes research.
"I've never known a woman with Nellie's courage, compassion and character," Walters said at the ceremony. "For all her ups and downs, I've never heard a self-pitying word from her."
The "downs" that Walters spoke of were when the Connallys found themselves in financial difficulties.
Private business ventures after 1980 were less successful than Connally's career as a politician and dealmaking Houston lawyer. An oil company in which he invested got into trouble, and $200 million worth of real estate projects went sour.
He filed for reorganization of his personal finances under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code and for liquidation,
under Chapter 7, of the Barnes/Connally Partnership, the Austin-based real estate venture that he founded with former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes.
The auction paid only a fraction of the $93 million in debts Connally listed with the bankruptcy court in Austin.
Nellie Connally celebrated her 80th birthday with fellow breast cancer survivors at a ceremony in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center at Anderson hospital in Houston. It had been 10 years since overcoming breast cancer.
She served on the M.D. Anderson Board of Visitors since 1984, and a fund in her name raised millions for research and patient programs.
She is survived by her daughter, Sharon Connally Ammann of Marble Falls; and two sons, John B. Connally III of Houston and Mark Connally of Dallas.
Funeral services are pending.