It’s ironic that Letitia Baldrige, the former White House secretary who’s whole life was dedicated to teaching people discretion and distinction, passed away on the exact day that a hurricane called Sandy rudely, crudely blew through New York, taking human lives and half of Manhattan’s power grid with her. I didn’t even know that she had passed (Baldrige, that is) until tonight when I found my friend William Norwich’s touching piece in the New York Times. I’ve known of Ms. Baldrige since I was a teenager. As a precocious, glamour-obsessed youth growing up in America’s Midwest, I was obsessed with the Kennedy’s version of Camelot. Before the Internet, I read every book I could on the Kennedy years. My favorite one was called ‘Jackie Oh,’ and I can remember stealing it when I was a bored 13-year-old from the library in my Aunt Arlene’s retirement community in Ranch Santo Fe, California, where my mother made me spend the entire week of Spring Break when my friends were all at Disney Land. Baldrige was a big part of those years, and a big part of shaping the aspirational glamour that surrounded those heady days when Washington, DC. was still a place of politics and style. For more than half a century, Baldrige was the go-to person for journalists to speak to about anything having to do with decorum. (She was quoted as recently as last year in the Times on her time at the White House, according to the paper’s website.) She was the picture of prim Americana, with a sensible way of speaking and dressing, often in pearls, looking a bit like a more sophisticated Maggie Thatcher. She wrote nearly two dozen books on etiquette and worked for the CIA, but what keeps her in the history books is her job as the White House social secretary with Jackie Kennedy, whom she met while at Miss Porter’s School. (For more on her interesting biography, read Norwich’s Times article.) As someone who wrote his own etiquette book — though a much different one, admittedly and humbly — she was the gold standard on manners, on being an assertive woman in an ever changing modern world. Especially in these times, she will be sorely missed.