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Remembering Eunice Kennedy Shriver

For many years, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her family lived in the Washington area, where she established a summer camp for children with disabilities at her family's home in Rockville. She was a common presence in the halls of power in Washington, lobbying for the rights of the intellectually disabled and for the Special Olympics, which she founded.

Tell us about your memories of this outstanding woman.

By Patricia Sullivan |  August 11, 2009; 8:55 AM ET
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She was an amzaing woman. What a wonderful woman to bring hope to millions.

Posted by: sunset04 | August 11, 2009 9:45 AM

While Mrs. Shriver's death is indeed news, I think it is downright silly of the Post to call the death of an 88-year old woman who has been in the hospital in critical condition for several days "breaking news."

Posted by: garywtsnd | August 11, 2009 9:46 AM

I was a graduate student at George Peabody College when she came for a visit to the JF Kennedy Center around 1972. She asked me, "What do you do here?" I replied, "I work with Drs. Brooks and Haywood." She said "No, I didn't mean who you work 'with'. What do you 'do' here?" I stammered something barely coherent and will always remember my brief encounter with a powerful personality and a genuinely great person.

Posted by: josephb1 | August 11, 2009 9:48 AM

I saw her only once out of a rear window of a limo near Chevy Chase, smiling and waving to beat the band. For her, it was all about her family and her extended family, those special kids. It was 88 years well lived so far as i can tell and best to Maria, Tim and the other children.

Posted by: rufkd | August 11, 2009 10:09 AM

Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a truly gifted and generous person. She was the light and hope, voice and reason of many who would have not been heard or recognized had it not been for her wonderful spirit. She was an extraordinary women whose visions for others was not tainted by politics. While we have lost a shining star, her direction, conviction and love for humanity will live on forever. My thoughts are with Sargent Shriver, Maria, all of her brothers, Senator Kennedy and all of Mrs. Shriver's grandchildren.

Posted by: ctma80 | August 11, 2009 10:15 AM

I ran the Connecticut Special Olympics while community relations director for United Technologies. Eunice Shriver was one of the most humble, caring individuals I ever met. She was truly sincere about all Special Olympians, and appreciated anything anyone did to help them. She was able to get Republicans and Democrats to work together without rancor. What a wonderful mother she must have been to her own chidren, to whom I extend my deepest sympathy.

Posted by: richloiss | August 11, 2009 10:39 AM

She was an amazing woman. Someone who could bridge the gap between the organizational vision and the work on the ground. She used her grand privelge to set right a personal wrong and what she and her husband accomplished changed the world. I grew up in Bethesda MD not too far from the Timberlawn Estate. In High School I worked as a swim instructor in the early days of the program. We would drive into the city every Saturday and teach mentally challenged kids from the District how to swim. I remember one older teenager who just thrashed around and was difficult to handle cause he was pretty big and was totally non verbal. Scared a lot of the instructors to be in the pool with him. I was Red Cross certified as a Life Guard so I knew how to handle somone who gets panicy in the water. So I spent the morning thrashing around with him. Coaxing him farther and father from the edge, mimicing his attempts to swim and showing him a little bit at a time how to propel himself forward. He would grunt, I would grunt back, he would scream, I would scream back. I will never forget the look on his face when he completed his first full length of the pool swimming what had to be one of the most chaotic, splashy, loudest versions of the freestyle you have ever seen. As much as that kid benefitted from accomplishing that small thing, what I learned was far greater. Its been 40 years plus since that day, still brings tears to my eyes. Rest in peace. . .and thank you.

Posted by: richdys | August 11, 2009 10:41 AM

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting her home here in Potomac, years ago for a special luncheon which purpose escapes me now, but I think it was either a democratic fundraiser or a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. She was a true blue American through and through and very relaxed and unassuming with her signature pearls and a beaming smile and warm handshake for everyone and anyone. I think it is what I like most about Democrats, that regardless of privilege or social stature, especially embodied in a lady such as she, you are never made to feel of any inferior or lesser worth in the world. She looked into you, through you, with an infinite curiosity and open-mindedness. I am happy I had the chance to meet her. God keep her soul.

Posted by: thelastpictureshow | August 11, 2009 10:47 AM

She had a lot, being a Kennedy and receiving a million bucks when she came of age, but she gave a lot too.

Posted by: gce1356 | August 11, 2009 10:49 AM

Eunice Kennedy Shriver was an admirable example of what means a true Christian charity, it is crystal clear that the tragic fate of her sister Rosemary had a great deal of influence in Eunice to work with disable people or mentally retarded. The way that new generations are looking these cases, has lots to do with Mrs. Shriver work, obviously she wasn’t the only one. In the USA, the UK and in almost all countries are organizations coping with children born with genetic disorders, not only Down syndrome, but many others. These kids have now the opportunity in many cases to have a normal life or almost one. In the UK “Unique” had followed the steps of Mrs. Shriver helping thousands of children throughout the world with chromosome disorders, and so dozens of other institutions. But Mrs. Shriver was a forerunner of most of these charities and institutions; she started immediately after Rosemary’s lobotomy, which caused her a terrible impression. On May 7, 1968, Shriver was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to France. Upon their arrival in Paris the Shriver’s encountered a severe domestic crisis involving nationwide strikes and student unrest. Despite many obstacles that they should face as a consequence of great tension between the two countries, Shriver and de Gaulle established a working friendship, both Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver became popular and often-publicized members of Paris society. Franco-American relations began to thaw as a result of this friendship, and were furthered when de Gaulle was succeeded by his former Prime Minister Georges Pompidou in 1969. As Ambassador, Shriver was peripherally involved in the Paris Peace Talks which began in 1968 between the United States and Vietnamese officials. He also oversaw President Richard Nixon’s visit to Paris in 1969, which marked the first American state visit to France since 1961, as well as President Pompidou’s state visit to Washington, D.C. in March 1970. Despite their success as Ambassadors and Mrs. Shriver apparent contentment with life in Paris, Sargent Shriver’s thoughts and ambitions were never far from the political scene back in the United States. This period was also marked by Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s organization of the First International Special Olympic Games, held in July 1968 in Chicago, and the assassination of Shriver’s brother-in-law, Robert F. Kennedy, less than a month after the Shriver’s’ arrival in Paris.

Posted by: ClemensMetternich | August 11, 2009 11:14 AM

Of all the Kennedys, she was the best. Morally and ethically, she was sound. Her brothers, however, were fecal dregs.

Posted by: tjhall1 | August 11, 2009 11:18 AM

Comrades: So, have any of the Kennedys ever had to work for a wage, or were they riding on the tidal wave of Papa Joe's bootleg profits? Eunice: clever, well educated, personable, and beholden to no-one due to 'private money'. Ted: 'knock, knock, knockin' on Heavens door', while awaiting care under the rules of the new universal health care plan . . . .

Posted by: rep15 | August 11, 2009 11:20 AM

An earlier blogger, garywtsnd, must not have paid attention to the name of this lady; she's a Kennedy, Gary! Love 'em or not, they have provided an American story of money, politics, sex, corruption, love, strength and history. God bless the family and all the relatives; thanks for the legacy!

Posted by: Dora-Faye | August 11, 2009 11:42 AM

I too, am a Shriver Counsellor.I worked the summer of 1963 at Timberlawn. Everything I learned that summer,from orientation to daily debriefing stood me in good stead in my life."If you can teach a person to do one thing, you can teach them to do two things.'"You must instill confidence." From the Flag Raising, to the Confidence Course, from swimming to horses to archery, we were pioneers in Eunice Shriver's vision of a new world for the mentally disabled. She opened doors that no one had ever dreamed of.
My favorite Eunice quote is "I wish I'd married my husband sooner." What a tribute to a marriage. She and Sarge were the ultimate power couple,making the world a better place. She would have made a great president.

Posted by: ballybay | August 11, 2009 12:32 PM

Bless her ascent to Heaven. We will miss you and Thank God for you....

Posted by: lindarc | August 11, 2009 12:54 PM

tjhall (as usual) and rep15 are among those citizens who seem to have forgotten the notion of civil discourse. A caring and compassionate woman, regardless of the circumstances of her birth, a woman who contributed greatly to some of the neediest of our citizens, has died. I am in awe of all that Eunice Kennedy Shriver accomplished in her lifetime, and I join her family in both celebration of the life of this great woman and in the sadness of her death.

Posted by: marmac5 | August 11, 2009 1:09 PM

Any one of thousands of us who were so honored as to assist in the Special Olympics are thanking God today for the 'loan' to humanity of this special soul. Time to rest, Mrs. Shriver.

Posted by: LadiSusana | August 11, 2009 1:10 PM

Nice ladies, righteous life, enabler of misogynist brothers.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | August 11, 2009 1:13 PM

Maria,
I'm so sorry to hear of your mother's passing.
Your mom was alway such a gracious hostess.
Your dad was the best, neither of your parents talked down to us kids.
I was a year ahead of you at Stone Ridge and have fond memories of the school events at your family home!

Posted by: kloran1 | August 11, 2009 1:24 PM

I feel quite upset with a comment written here, which I will quote: “Of all the Kennedy’s, she was the best. Morally and ethically, she was sound. Her brothers, however, were fecal dregs. Posted by: tjhall1 | August 11, 2009 11:18 AM.” This person tjhall 1 may have his or her own opinion about the Kennedy’s, but what he is saying is pure slander, offensive, nasty and vulgar. I cannot understand why the Washington Post accepts these kinds of outrageous comments. We are paying homage to Eunice Kennedy Shriver and this is not the right time to start a debate of what her brothers did as public figures and less insult them, even those who cannot defend themselves because they were murdered. In life there are limits for everything and good manners and good taste oblige us to respect the grieve of the Kennedy family today, too many tragedies occurred to them since Mrs. Shriver eldest brother died in WW2 to her nephew John Kennedy Junior who perished with his wife in 1999.

Posted by: ClemensMetternich | August 11, 2009 1:38 PM

the time is 1970, fall...the place...boston university after a great rally. a very tall,lanky r.sargent shriver, jr. aka bobby and his "baby sitter" are getting ready to return to the tremont street h.q. of his uncle ted. i cant remember the name of bobby's handler but i remember his v.w. bug. if you were lucky enough to have a car, it carried all of your stuff...clothes, books, papers, fast food trash...and this bug was no different...filled to the bottoms of the windows with "stuff". someone told me to go get a ride back with bobby.he unfolded his long legs and got out of the car to let me in. to my great surprize, he flipped the front seat forward and stuffed his 6 foot something frame into the overflowing space so that i could get in the front. no one told him to...he just did it. so, knees up to his chin, sitting on, god only knows what, we went back down town. as you may have guessed, this made a great impressiuon on this shy, 20 year old, fresh off the farm, so to speak, from indiana. it would have been easier for me in the back but bobby never hesitated. when we are lucky enough to be given the gift of a soul to help grow, we can only hope that, with our guidence, they become caring, compassionate, humane beings. eunice and sarge got it right. our children, we hope, are a reflection of how we guide them. from what i have seen, the next generation will be lucky to have all 5 of the shriver children in the world. GREAT JOB! AND NOT TOO SHABBY A LEGACY!

Posted by: dhousand1 | August 11, 2009 3:12 PM

I had the wonderful opportunity of escorting Mrs. Shriver around the special education area of our school. She also had lunch with some of the most profound physically and mentally impaired students. The are also the most loving.

Mrs. Shriver was so gracious with the kids and the staff. I am honored that I have a picture of she and I together. I have met many famous people in my life but she was probably the most wonderful.


Posted by: mortified469 | August 11, 2009 3:56 PM

It was a true measure of her character that she focused on those who are marginalized and ignored. That is what the Gospels are all about. May God's perpetual light shine upon her.

Posted by: alithere | August 11, 2009 3:59 PM

My condolences to the Kennedy/Shriver family, and especially to Maria on the loss of a great leader in the disability community. I was fortunate to have worked on an International event with Mrs. Shriver when I helped lead the disability policy agenda for our previous President. She was a very smart, savvy and gracious lady who stood by her agenda to make life better for my peers with disabilities. As Tom Brokaw, would state: she too was a member of the "Greatest Generation".

Posted by: stingus | August 11, 2009 4:07 PM

Eunice Shriver was a National Treasure.She was the most remarkable woman I had the priviledge of knowing.What she has given mankind is countless. She was the most selfless person devoting her life to better all she came into contact with. She used her priviledged backround remembering, that to much is given much is expected. She went way above and beyond the call of duty. Those who were blessed to know her and those who didn't will feel her loss.
Thanks to God she was an angel we had on earth for 88 years 1 month and 1 day. God bless her for all she gave to us. The world has suffered a great loss.All my best to her family.
She will live through all that knew and loved her.

Posted by: rhardintpa | August 11, 2009 4:16 PM

I met Eunice at the Special Olympics National Games in Ames, Iowa in 2001. She rode around in a golf cart watching the games and came over to me to ask who I was watching. When I showed her my daughter and the team she was playing soccer with, she asked about her schooling. I told her about our fully supported inclusion school system in upstate New York and she asked me to please call her when she got back to her office to tell her more about our system. We set up a conference call but she became ill, then was in her Summer home in Martha's Vineyard so we never did have an opportunity to tell her more about our school system. But that day in Iowa, in the 100 degree weather, Eunice posed for pictures with my daughter and members of her team and talked with them for 1/2 hour. She hugged them all and encouraged them to keep playing and WIN. She was a wonderful person and the world will miss her.

Posted by: dbstough2002 | August 11, 2009 4:39 PM

I first met Eunice in my home state of West Virginia during the primary election.
She was a big hit for her brother, the people took to her because she had something special about her.I joined the national campaign and continued to watch her help her brother in quest for the preidency. she always stayed in the background when she helped bobby,teddy and always supported her husband sarge. It was an honor for me to get to know her over the years. she was a wonderful human being and will be missed by the thousands and thousands of lives she touched. mel cottone

Posted by: melcottone | August 11, 2009 4:48 PM

Mr. Metternich brings up something I always wonder about. Why does the WaPo print such disgustuing things as the one he cited. Ann Bier

Posted by: jimsbier | August 11, 2009 4:50 PM

The Kennedy's were nothing but white trash irish bootleggers who made it rich in liquor (Old Fittzgerald whisky is named after them) JFK with his civil rights agenda set the stage for ruining our country, while getting him killed. Same for brother Bobby. And I hope Teddy dies a horrible death and then eternity in hell for killing not only Mary Joyce Kopeckney, but the millions of baby's he killed with legal abortion. The sooner this family dies off the better for America.

Posted by: SavedGirl | August 11, 2009 6:16 PM

As a Roman Catholic I don’t share any abortion policy I am completely pro life but I cannot accept that some cynics and horrendous people like the one who made the comment that I quote below, show their lack of ethics and pure hate towards a family, no matter if we agree with what JKF did as a president or what are the positions of Senator Edward Kennedy with who I don’t agree in many things in politics and about life, but what this person said is a scandal for anyone who considers himself or herself a real Christian, what Our Lord taught to us is to love everybody even those who are our “foes”, which is not in my case the Kennedy family. This day I mourn Mrs. Shriver a wonderful woman, une grande dame, she has been admired in France even by us Catholics and Monarchists, what this poor guy said earlier is:
“The Kennedy's were nothing but white trash Irish bootleggers who made it rich in liquor (Old Fitzgerald whisky is named after them) JFK with his civil rights agenda set the stage for ruining our country, while getting him killed. Same for brother Bobby. And I hope Teddy dies a horrible death and then eternity in hell for killing not only Mary Joyce Kopeckney (sic), but the millions of baby's he killed with legal abortion. The sooner this family dies off the better for America.

Posted by: Saved Girl | August 11, 2009 6:16 PM”

Posted by: ClemensMetternich | August 11, 2009 7:35 PM

As a Roman Catholic I don’t share any abortion policy I am completely pro life but I cannot accept that some cynics and horrendous people like the one who made the comment that I quote below, show their lack of ethics and pure hate towards a family, no matter if we agree with what JKF did as a president or what are the positions of Senator Edward Kennedy with who I don’t agree in many things in politics and about life, but what this person said is a scandal for anyone who considers himself or herself a real Christian, what Our Lord taught to us is to love everybody even those who are our “foes”, which is not in my case the Kennedy family. This day I mourn Mrs. Shriver a wonderful woman, une grande dame, she has been admired in France even by us Catholics and Monarchists, what this poor guy said earlier is:
“The Kennedy's were nothing but white trash Irish bootleggers who made it rich in liquor (Old Fitzgerald whisky is named after them) JFK with his civil rights agenda set the stage for ruining our country, while getting him killed. Same for brother Bobby. And I hope Teddy dies a horrible death and then eternity in hell for killing not only Mary Joyce Kopeckney (sic), but the millions of baby's he killed with legal abortion. The sooner this family dies off the better for America.

Posted by: Saved Girl | August 11, 2009 6:16 PM”

Posted by: ClemensMetternich | August 11, 2009 7:36 PM

Saved girl...who saved you and from what? The question asked was thoughts on Eunice Kennedy Shriver. This woman left her own legacy. If you are against Special Olympics and other assistance for the mentally challenged for some reason, by all means speak up. If you met her and she was nasty to you, type away. If you have issue with actions taken by some of her relatives over 40 years ago, I think this is not the place.
I have not had any friends or relatives with developmental disabilities, but there are many positive comments here from those who have. It sounds like she was a good woman who did some good and lasting things.

BTW: Old Fitzgerald whiskey has nothing to do with the Kennedys.

Posted by: didnik | August 11, 2009 8:17 PM

May God grant you eternal rest and peace. You are with the angels now....

Posted by: eambaker | August 11, 2009 9:29 PM

In 1994, I campaigned for Mark Shriver in Maryland. I was a student at American University in my freshman year. We had a blast helping Mark, driving in Rose Kennedy's old Dodge mini-van and a Ford Falcon, I believe. Through helping Mark, I was lucky enough to meet his parents and spend a little time at their home in Potomac, MD, even helping with a Best Buddies function they hosted at home. I lived in Potomac at one point, and would see Anthony at the local shops.

My best memory of Eunice was a day when I went into the house because Mark told me it was ok, and Mrs. Shriver came down the stairs while I was waiting for a friend to come out of the powder room. I was looking at all of the amazing history in her home...the pictures of her brothers and parents on the walls and piano. She came over and introduced herself and asked me about myself. Eventually, she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up...what was I studying in college. I gave her a whole host of goals I had, including running for public office, being a lawyer, and many other things. She said, "Don't you want a family?" I answered that I wanted five children, like she had. She smiled and said, "I'm going to tell you what my mother told me, and don't you forget it. You can have and do all of the things that you want in life. Just know that you may not have them all at once. Do each thing you want and enjoy it during the time you have it. Don't worry about what you don't have, because you'll get to do it all, one thing at a time."

I never forgot that even though there are other things to remember about my short personal knowledge of Mrs. Shriver. I was blessed with some of Rose Kennedy's wisdom, through her. That was pretty cool for an 18 year old blue collar kid from Wisconsin. Thanks, Eunice. I still remind myself of this advice every day.

Posted by: DanaBoyle | August 12, 2009 1:07 AM

My friend and I once cut through her estate when we were in high school. We merrily ran across the meadow, past a herd of cows. The cows started chasing us! So we ran til we came upon a tree, which we climbed up. The cows ran past us. Then my friend pointed up to me high in the tree and laughed. I hope we didn't cause the cow's milk to curdle.The estate is gone now. Developed into strip malls and luxury apartment homes. Ah, the Rockville of my youth!

(Sorry, this is the best I could come up with. I never knew the woman.)

Posted by: roubaix | August 12, 2009 10:54 PM

I remember when I was younger reading books on the Kennedy family and being especially interested in Rosemary and what she had gone through. I didn't know then that I would have a child who would have the same difficulties that Rosemary had while she was growing up. I remember reading one particular story about Rosemary, this was shortly before her tragic lobotomy. During a family gathering she had an explosive outburst in which she became violent. From what I had read these episodes were happening more often as she entered her early twenties and was becoming increasingly frustrated with her limitations. This story has been with me as I have raised my daughter. I have watched her frustration over the years, at times her frustration has led to such outburts. The most important goal in raising Amber was to build her self esteem and to have her in situations where she could utilize her strengths, and to help her learn how to get herself through the inevitable moments in life when one becomes overwhelmed. Were it not for Eunice Shriver's dedication to help others like Rosemary and showing the world that those with developmental disabilities should not be shut away we would not have the resources that are available today. We now have dedicated teachers who will begin to teach our children when they are small how to shine in their own light. We now have dedicated individuals in agencies who will help our children when they are adults to live their lives to the fullest. We now, as a society, no longer shut our children away to languish in institutions, we can now cheer them on during events like the Special Olympics. Or in my case, I can cheer one child on as I watch her become independent, and in the back of my mind remember the story of Rosemary Kennedy and know what could have been if we had not been blessed with the dedication of Eunice Shriver.

Posted by: dawndavey813 | August 14, 2009 2:55 PM

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