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Special Olympians, family celebrate Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Saturday, August 15, 2009

(Photo)
Special Olympian multiple medalist Loretta Claiborne, from York, Pa., bids farewell Friday to Eunice Kennedy Shriver during her funeral at St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in Barnstable, Mass.
(Steven Senne ~ Associated Press)
HYANNIS, Mass. -- Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the presidential sister who founded the Special Olympics, was celebrated Friday at a funeral Mass as a fearless warrior for the voiceless who changed the world for millions and an unconventional woman who smoked Cuban cigars and played tackle football.

"She was scary smart and not afraid to show it," Maria Shriver said of her mother, who died Tuesday at age 88. "If she were here today ... she would pound this podium ... and ask each of you what you have done today to better the world."

The Special Olympics torch led a procession for Shriver past thousands of onlookers who lined the streets outside St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church as friends, family and athletes from the movement she founded in 1968 gathered for the private service.

Shriver's only living brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, who has been battling brain cancer, did not attend the funeral.

Maria Shriver and her husband, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, joined other family members to carry the casket into the church, the same place where the two were married 23 years earlier.

Standing with her four brothers during her eulogy, Maria Shriver said her "Mummy" liked to hang with the guys, but all her heroes -- except her brother, Jack -- were women. She said she was grateful her mother's life and work were getting so much attention, and that young women in particular saw a role model who never conformed to what society might have wanted.

"Mummy wore men's pants, smoked Cuban cigars and she played tackle football," she said. "Our mother never rested, she never stopped. She was momentum on wheels."

Loretta Claiborne, a former Special Olympics athlete and longtime friend of Shriver's, delivered welcoming remarks at the service, also attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

"She was chosen to have a life to serve others, the weakest of the weak, the castaways, the throwaways of society, at the time they would say the mentally retarded, and I am one of those people," Claiborne said.

Shriver's 19 grandchildren each offered prayers -- giving thanks to her for teaching them to sail, for insisting girls are equal to boys, and for the lesson of helping those in need. The two-hour service wrapped up with a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Shriver's husband, R. Sargent Shriver, a 1972 vice presidential candidate who has Alzheimer's disease, also was at the service. Maria Shriver said her father never minded when her mother's hair was unkempt or she beat him in a game of tennis.

"He let her rip and he let her roar, and he loved everything about her," she said.

The crowds of people outside, including residents, tourists and Special Olympians, were largely silent for the procession as the church bell rang and a lone bagpipe played.

The opening funeral procession was led by law enforcers and athletes, including Marguerite Heffernan, of Harwich, a Special Olympian in 1968, and her 27-year-old son Shawn, from Orleans, who carried the Special Olympics torch.

"It was great," said Shawn Heffernan, who has won 49 swimming medals. "I'd done it before, but this was different."

His mother held her swimming medals from 1971 and recalled the impact Shriver had made on their lives.

"She helped open doors," she said. "We gained freedom from hiding."

After the Mass, many in the crowd clapped as family members carried the casket out of the church while others snapped photos. She was buried at the St. Francis Xavier parish cemetery in nearby Centerville after a brief private graveside service.

Mourners lit candles from the Special Olympics torch, and her son, Tim, the chairman of Special Olympics International, called forward the athletes who were there to be nearer to the casket.

Three Irish musicians who were sent to the service by singer and activist Bono led the group in singing Bob Dylan's "Forever Young."

Bono and Shriver's son, Bobby, founded RED, an organization to get companies to create Red-branded products and donate some of the sales proceeds for HIV/AIDS relief in Africa.

Bono, who could not attend the funeral, said in a written tribute released late Friday that Shriver was "a friend, mentor and matriarch of the community that binds all activists."

"Eunice Shriver has managed to shut me up for the first time since I have known her," Bono said. "Shut up and listen is what you should do when you are in her company. I wish I'd done more of both."


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Eunice Kennedy has been hospitalized, and is reportedly dead. Eunice Kennedy, better known as Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is the wife of Robert Sargent Shriver, and the sister of John F. Kennedy, and therefore Robert, Rose, and Edward. She helped found the Peace Corps and the Special Olympics, and her oldest daughter, one of five children she had with Robert, is First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, who married Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hers has thus far been a life of privilege, but that privilege was used to serve the greater good, as she had done great work and given many cash advances to good causes. The world needs more like Eunice Kennedy.

-- Posted by AnanP on Wed, Aug 19, 2009, at 4:45 AM


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