AUSTIN, Texas -- Nellie Connally, the last remaining survivor who was riding in President Kennedy's limousine when he was assassinated, has died, a family friend said yesterday. She was 87.
Ms. Connally, the widow of former Governor John Connally, died in her sleep late Friday at Westminster Manor in Austin, said Julian Read, who served as the governor's press secretary in the 1960s.
``Total surprise," he said. ``She has been extremely active and vital the past few days and weeks. . . . It's a shock to all of us."
Ms. Connally had said the most enduring image she had of the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination 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. ``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. Ms. 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 also an active fundraiser for many charities. In 1989, Richard Nixon, Barbara Walters, and Donald Trump turned out for a gala to honor her and raise money for diabetes research.
``I've never known a woman with Nellie's courage, compassion, and character," Walters said. ``For all her ups and downs, I've never heard a self-pitying word from her."
The ``downs" that Walters spoke of were financial difficulties.
Private business ventures after 1980 were less successful than John 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 Lieutenant Governor 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 Cancer Center in Houston.