Josephine Ogden Forrestal – Military Spouse

The wife of James Vincent Forrestal, she was born in 1899 and married him on October 12, 1926. She spent the years following his tragic suicide traveling restlessly, living in France, Ireland and Jamaica before eventually settling in Newport, Rhode Island. Their home on Prospect Street in Washington, D.C. was sold in 1951 to a North Carolina Congressman for $187,000. According to friends, she “was in and out of clinics for a number of years, but there was no significant change in her condition.” She maintained an apartment at 399 Park Avenue in New York City and for a time rented it to correspondent Robert Sherror. According to him, she would appear infrequently from a trip from France or Ireland and drop in on him for a drink: “By this time she had devised a sort of reverse Martini – 4 parts vermouth to 1 part gin – but, unfortunately this conscious dilution of content did not significantly alter the result.”

On another occasion she telephoned her old friends, the William Lords, who were living in East Hampton, Long Island. She was in an adjacent town and wanted to visit them for 2 or 3 days. Her South Hampton hostess drove her to the Lords' afraid to trust her alone on the highway. Jo put on her Ostrich feathers for dinner but could not manage to match her stockings, and her behavior was so bizarre that even the usually relaxed and tolerant Lords found it impossible to cope with. Jo departed the next day.

Living in Newport, she developed a close relationship with her great-niece, Millicent Odgen McKinley Cox, a dabbled in the performing arts. She backed several local theatrical productions, including “Double Dublin,” and Leonard Bernstein's “Theater Sons,” and made sporadic attempts to write seriously. She finished a play called “Democracy,” set in Washington, D.C. in 1889 and bearing a resemblance to Henry Adams' famous novel of the same name and setting. In a comment on the transient nature of prestige and social standing in democratic America, one of her characters says that every “kindly mannered, pleasant voices” woman and every “brace, unassuming man is given a free pass in every city and village,” but it is marked “Good for this generation only.” The play was never produced.

Journalist John McLain asked her to collaborate with him on a biography of James Forrestal, but the project ultimately failed to excite her. McLain started work on the book but died before its completion.

She died on January 5, 1976, 27 years after her husband, and was laid to rest with him in Section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery.

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