no man happy until you know the nature
of his death; he is at best but fortunate.
from Herodotus, Book 1
February 6, 1975, Aristotle Socrates Onassis set out on his final
journey, on foot.
Papadimitriou, his private attorney and the director of his shipping
empire, had been summoned to the villa in the Athens suburb of Glyfada
with the news that the Boss was sinking fast. His myasthenia gravis-a
degenerative neuromuscular disease-had been complicated by a case
of influenza and an infection of the gall bladder. Foreign doctors
and family members were gathering at his bedside and arguing about
his medical treatment.
the two years since his son Alexander died in a plane crash, Onassis
had lost the will to live. He was negligent in taking his medications.
Six weeks earlier, on Christmas Day 1974, he had given the members
of his household staff ten thousand drachmas (about $300) each,
an unusually large Christmas gift, which seemed to them his way
of saying goodbye.
the months of December and January, Onassis lost forty pounds. Not
even the Anatolian delicacies his sister Artemis prepared could
coax him to eat. His daughter, Christina, still believed that the
doctors she had summoned from Paris and New York might be able to
save her father, but Papadimitriou suspected, as he climbed the
front steps to the villa on that overcast February morning, that
the news would not be good.
being received by the Onassis retainer Panayiotis Konidiaris and
greeting the shipowner's worried sisters in the parlor, Papadimitriou
hurried up the stairs toward the second-floor bedroom. He found
Onassis' 24-year-old daughter huddled near the top of the stairs,
sobbing. She told him that she couldn't convince her father to go
to Paris, to the American Hospital in Neuilly, in the company of
the French surgeon Dr. Jean Caroli who wanted to remove his inflamed
gall bladder. (The American doctor who flew in with Jackie Kennedy
Onassis from New York felt that the rigors of such an operation
would kill him.) She begged Papadimitriou to convince her father
to go. There was a car and driver waiting outside to take him to
the airport, but he wouldn't budge.