Massachusetts (US), Aug.11 (ANI): Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of President John F Kennedy and founder of the Special Olympics, has died aged 88.
She had been in a critical condition at Cape Cod hospital in Massachusetts since last week.
Shriver, who organised the first Special Olympic Games in 1968, partly inspired by her mentally disabled sister, Rosemary Kennedy, was television host Maria Shriver's mother. Maria Shriver is married to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Known for her devotion to the mentally disabled community and in particular her mentally disabled sister Rosemary, Eunice Kennedy Shriver often invited mentally disabled children to a summer camp held in the backyard of her Maryland home.
From the first group of 35 children, the Special Olympics grew into an organization that now hosts 227 programs in more than 180 countries and includes more than three million participants.
President Ronald Reagan presented Ms. Kennedy Shriver with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984 for her services to mentally and physically challenged.
Born on July 10, 1921, in Brookline, Massachusetts, Shriver was the fifth of Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's nine children . She had been married since 1953 to Sargent Shriver, who served as the first director of the U.S. Peace Corps and as an ambassador to France.
Devoutly religious throughout her life, she originally planned to become a nun, according to "The Kennedys: An American Drama" by Peter Collier and David Horowitz.
She earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Stanford University, did social work in Harlem, N.Y., and worked for the U.S. State Department helping American prisoners of war returning from Germany adjust to life back in the U.S. For a while, she lived with her brother John, at the time a freshman congressman, in a Georgetown townhouse, working as a government secretary.
Sargent Shriver courted her doggedly for seven years, before concluding he had to start dating other women. Hearing this, Eunice rushed home from Europe, declaring, "He's not marrying anybody but me."
When the couple wed in 1953, Eunice had to climb a ladder to cut the eight-layer wedding cake-a seven-foot pastry . It was replicated in 1986, when her daughter married bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger , who was elected California's governor in 2003.
Eunice campaigned for her brothers at block parties and traveled to Texas when John Kennedy ran for president. As executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, named after her oldest brother , who was killed as a pilot in World War II, she helped change civil service regulations to allow mentally disabled people to be evaluated on ability rather than just test scores, and set up a program to provide free dental care for participants of the Special Olympics, among other efforts.
"If that girl had been born with balls, she would have been a hell of a politician," her father once said.
Kennedy Shriver was the first living woman to appear on a commemorative coin, the 1995 silver dollar. (ANI)