Friday, April 28, 2006

Julia Thorne, Ex-Wife of John Kerry, Has Died at 61

From the Boston Globe:

Julia Thorne, at 61; author, activist was ex-wife of Senator Kerry

By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff | April 28, 2006

Julia Thorne, an author, activist, and former wife of US Senator John F. Kerry, died yesterday in Concord. She was 61.

The cause of death was transitional-cell carcinoma, a form of cancer, according to her daughter Vanessa Kerry.

In a telephone interview, John Kerry called Ms. Thorne ‘’a great friend to a lot of people” and spoke with emotion of her accomplishments as a parent. ‘’She was the best mom two daughters could want,” he said. ‘’She was completely committed to the kids and their future.”

Her daughter echoed that view.

‘’She was a phenomenal mother,” said Vanessa Kerry, of Cambridge. ‘’And she affected many others, too. So many people have come up to me over the years, even on the campaign trail, to say how much of a difference her books made for them. People basked in her embrace of life.”

Ms. Thorne was the author of ‘’You Are Not Alone: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey through Depression” (1993), with Larry Rothstein, and ‘’A Change of Heart: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey through Divorce” (1996).

The former book reflected her own experience with depression, something she suffered from during much of the 1980s. She later founded The Depression Initiative, a nonprofit education foundation.

‘’Depression isn’t always a bad thing,” Ms. Thorne said in a 1993 Globe interview. ‘’Under certain circumstances it will teach you things.”

Ms. Thorne had a longstanding interest in the arts, dating to a childhood ambition to become a dancer. She served as assistant director of the Institute of Contempory Art during the mid-’70s and was later a board member of the Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation.

Ms. Thorne never felt comfortable with the demands of being a political wife.

‘’What she disdained more than anything was politics,” said Douglas Brinkley in a telephone interview yesterday. Brinkley, the author of ‘’Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War,” added that Ms. Thorne ‘’didn’t enjoy the breakfasts, the lunches, the shaking of hands: the upbeat rigamarole of politics. She loathed the back-stabbing of it. She went on her own journey, one based on spirituality and nature.”

Ms. Thorne and Kerry divorced in 1988. She moved to Wyoming in 1993 and became active in environmental causes. After she and Richard J. Charlesworth married in 1997, they moved to Bozeman, Mont.

Julia Stimson Thorne was born Sept. 16, 1944, in New York. Her father, Landon K. Thorne Jr., was a banker. Her mother was Alice (Barry).

Among Ms. Thorne’s forebears were Elias Boudinot IV, who was president of the Continental Congress, and two Cabinet members: William Bradford, attorney general under George Washington; and Henry L. Stimson, secretary of state under Herbert Hoover and secretary of war under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Ms. Thorne spent much of her childhood in Italy, where her father had been appointed to a diplomatic post.

‘’I was what you might call a high society jet-setter,” Ms. Thorne told the Globe in 2003. ‘’I had been brought up in this rarefied world. My mother was very Edwardian in her value system. She had an idea of what was a decorous life for a young lady, and that didn’t include going to colleges. It was more about knowing the right people in the right palaces. It was a waste of a good mind.”

Ms. Thorne attended the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Va. ‘’I hated it there, I just didn’t fit in,” she said in a 1990 Globe interview. After graduating, she took classes at the New York School of Interior Design and Radcliffe College.

In the summer of 1963, Ms. Thorne was at her family’s estate in New York, on Long Island, when Kerry, a Yale classmate of her twin brother, David, arrived for a visit. She was wearing a bikini and singing a Peter, Paul, and Mary song, ‘’Five Hundred Miles.” Clearly smitten, ‘’he just kind of stood there and looked,” Ms. Thorne recalled in a Globe interview. They married in 1970.

Ms. Thorne and Kerry remained friendly after their divorce and she supported his presidential candidacy in 2004. ‘’I don’t have a single reservation about this man,” she said in 2003. ‘’He is an extraordinarily astute politician.”

There could be little doubt, though, of her own sense of relief not to be involved in the campaign. ‘’After 14 years as a political wife, I associated politics only with anger, fear, and loneliness,” she wrote in ‘’A Change of Heart.”

‘’She saw the life of the rich and famous and rejected it,” Brinkley said yesterday. ‘’She saw the life of a celebrity in the modern world and disdained it. She sought the life of a serious person in a thoughtful community.”

In addition to her husband, daughter Vanessa, and brother David, of Brookline, Ms. Thorne leaves another daughter, Alexandra of New York; and brother, Landon K. III of Beaufort, S.C.

A memorial service is planned for the fall.


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