Eunice Kennedy Shriver is reportedly in critical condition in a Cape Cod hospital. Mrs. Shriver is Maria Shriver’s mother and the mother-in-law of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Update 8-11-09 Mrs. Shriver died in hospital this morning. See updates below.
Mrs. Shriver is believed to suffer from Addison’s Disease and to have had a series of strokes over the past few years. Addison’s Disease is a rare endocrine disorder. The family says that she is in intensive care in critical but stable condition. Her family is said to be with her, including daughter Maria and Governor Schwarzenegger, along with grandchildren and her husband Sargeant Shriver who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She has reportedly been in hospital for about a week.
Eunice Shriver, 88, is the sister of ailing Senator Ted Kennedy, deceased former President John F. Kennedy and former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Besides being a Kennedy sibling, Eunice is known for her founding work with the Special Olympics. She had a vision for disabled children and adults, that they could be more than they ever thought they could be. Mrs. Shriver founded the organization that would change the lives and the quality of life for many afflicted with physical circumstances beyond their control.
Another Kennedy sibling and the big sister of Eunice, Rosemary, is believed to have been born mentally disabled, or “intellectually disabled,” as named by Special Olympics. Rosemary was the third child of nine of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Eunice was the fifth-born and her older sister was never far from her thoughts. Much controversy surrounds Rosemary’s illness, but there is no controversy about Eunice’s devotion to the Special Olympics which she founded in her backyard in 1958 in memory of her sister who was eventually institutionalized. Rosemary’s father, Joe Kennedy, arranged for his daughter to have a lobotomy, which involves cutting the connections to and from the prefontal cortex. Legend has it that his wife, Rose, knew nothing of her husband’s plan.
The Kennedy family kept Rosemary a secret from all but the closest of friends, until John F. Kennedy became President. Eunice urged him and other family members to tell the world about their hidden sister. She wrote a cover story for The Saturday Evening Post and the secrets of the “hidden segment of society,” the mentally ill, was exposed with the backing and support of the American White House.
Shriver believed with a fierce passion that those living with “intellectual disabilities” should not live in isolation and neglect, as perhaps, did her sister Rosemary. Rosemary died in 2005. From the Special Olympics website:
When people see the seriousness and sense of purpose evident in each Special Olympics athletic event, a window of understanding opens. In hundreds of competitions a year around the world, people everywhere get the chance to have their eyes opened and their perspectives widened.
Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Those activities give them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship.
Eunice Kennedy’s elementary education was from The Convent of the Sacred Heart in London. She graduated Stanford in 1944 with a BS in Social Science and Social Thought. Out of university, she went to work for the U.S. State Department. She later spent years as a social worker.
Kennedy married Sargent Shriver in 1953. He was the U.S. Ambassador to France from 1968 – 1970. Their children are Robert Sargent III, Maria, Timothy, Mark and Anthony. Timothy now carries on the legacy of Special Olympics. The Shrivers have 19 grandchildren, only to be outdone by the family of Robert and Ethel Kennedy who are grandparents to 32 grandchildren.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver died today while still hospitalized at the age of 88.
She was the light of our lives, a mother, wife, grandmother, sister and aunt who taught us by example and with passion what it means to live a faith-driven life of love and service to others,” the family said.
Sen. Kennedy remembered his sister as a “young girl with great humor, sharp wit, and a boundless passion to make a difference.’
“She understood deeply the lesson our mother and father taught us — much is expected of those to whom much has been given. Throughout her extraordinary life, she touched the lives of millions, and for Eunice that was never enough.”
Mrs. Shriver is being widely lauded today for her work in many areas and specifically with Special Olympics, but the one that caught my eye is this one:
Peter Collier, author of “The Kennedys, an American Drama,” called Eunice Shriver the “moral force” of the Kennedy family.