Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver was born July 10, 1921, in Brookline, Massachusetts. She was the 5th of 9 children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. She is survived by her brother, U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy and her sister, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith.
Eunice Shriver, 88, had been in the Hyannis hospital for more than a week, hospital spokeswoman Robin Lord told the Cape Cod Times. She was admitted at that time for an undisclosed illness and was reported to be in critical condition. Over the years, Shriver had suffered strokes which left her weak. For the last several days she had been in the intensive care unit. With her at the hospital were her husband, Sargent Shriver, 94, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, her children, including son-in-law California Governor Schwarzenegger, and her grandchildren.
On Monday, the Pope’s representative to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, wrote a letter to Eunice Shriver’s family that was later released to the Associated Press. The letter stated that the Pope “unites himself spiritually with each of you at this difficult time, holding close Eunice as she is called home to eternal life”.
Eunice Shriver will be missed, not only by her family, but by the millions whose lives she touched with her compassion and desire to spread understanding about intellectual disabilities.
Eunice Shriver is thought to have suffered from Addison’s Disease, an endocrine disorder in which the body doesn’t produce enough steroid hormones. With medication, those suffering from Addison’s can live a normal life. Her brother, John Kennedy, also suffered from Addison’s Disease.
It would be difficult to grow up in a household of politicians and not be involved in some way in public life. Eunice first became involved in politics when she campaigned for her brother John to win the Presidential election in 1960. Having been raised with the family motto, ” We want no losers around here, only winners”, she was right at home with hard work and perseverance.
Eunice’s older sister, Rosemary, had a mental disability, which inspired Eunice to advocate for the intellectually handicapped. She founded the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring at The University of Utah, Salt Lake City in 1968. She was the key founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in 1962.
Eunice Shriver established many support networks and care facilities throughout the country and has received many awards in recognition of her work on behalf of those with mental disabilities. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a civilian can receive.
Shriver was a strong advocate for the mentally disabled, inspired by her older sister Rosemary, who passed away in 2005. Most associate her with the Special Olympics, which she founded in 1968 as a two day event in Chicago. The Special Olympics have grown to involve 3 million people in 170 countries. Eunice Shriver’s work in founding the Special Olympics earned her the Civitan International World Citizenship Award, as well as many other awards, recognitions and honorary degrees from several universities.
Phone calls, cards, and email poured in from many of the Special Olympics athletes and their families from all over the world when they heard their champion had been hospitalized. Shriver changed the way the world looks at intellectually disabled people and their role in society using sports as a catalyst for their acceptance and inclusion. Eunice Shriver was the only woman to have been featured on a US coin in her lifetime. That coin is the 1995 Special Olympics silver dollar.