Eunice Kennedy Shriver Dies At Age 88
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Eunice Kennedy Shriver spent her final days on Cape Cod, in the state that's been connected with her family for decades. Shriver has died at the age of 88. She was the daughter of a millionaire, the sister of a president and the mother-in-law of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Eunice Kennedy Shriver has had an eventful life of her own. Linda Wertheimer, who's been sitting in this week, covered her over the years, knew her over the years. And, Linda, I want to call her half of a power couple, but it was a special kind of power couple.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:
Well, they were both very much involved, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her husband, Sargent Shriver, in the campaigns of all the Kennedy brothers. The efforts of John Kennedy's successful presidential campaign and then Sargent Shriver served with John Kennedy. He was ambassador to France. Eunice Shriver campaigned in all of the - in all of her brothers' efforts and very much believed in everything that they did. But she, as you say, she had her own life.
INSKEEP: Which included founding the Special Olympics?
WERTHEIMER: And, of course, one cannot - one has to sort of think about Rosemary Kennedy, who was her sister, who had - who was mentally retarded, lived to a great age, but had to be cared for. And Eunice Kennedy felt very strongly that people with mental disabilities should come out of any kind of seclusion, should have school, should have sports, should have all of the things that other children have. And she worked very hard with Special Olympics to see that that happened.
INSKEEP: And this is a woman who had to live her life in everything but seclusion and try to raise a family in the spotlight of being a member of the Kennedy family.
WERTHEIMER: But, you know, her children, the Shriver children, I think, are the most kind of regular guy children, despite their own personal great accomplishments, of all of the Kennedy. Because they, I think, benefited very much from having both their parents all their lives. And their parents had this very, very strong ethic that the children all talk about about - public service. That it's important that everybody give back to the community sort of in proportion to the things that they have been given.
INSKEEP: And those children include Maria Shriver, the NBC newscaster who is now the wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
WERTHEIMER: They have been very, very much involved in public life and in making real, I think, Eunice Kennedy's very great interest in trying to take care of people with disability.
INSKEEP: Very, very briefly, what was it like when Eunice Kennedy Shriver walked into a room, worked a room?
WERTHEIMER: She sort of looked amazingly like her brother Jack, the president. Big, tall woman with very sharp features and a very strong Boston accent and a quick, you know, quick wit. But she sort of had this loud, braying voice. And whenever she came into the room everybody turned around.
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.