Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a member of the famed Kennedy family, died Tuesday at 88. An advocate for people with disabilities discusses her legacy.
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Eunice Kennedy Shriver was the fifth of nine Kennedy children and, growing up in that prominent family, was often overshadowed by her brothers — Joe, John, Bobby and Ted.
But it was her older sister, Rosemary, who inspired her life's work.
Rosemary was born, as described in those days, mildly retarded and, at age 23, underwent a lobotomy, which made her worse off. She was institutionalized for the rest of her life.
Tim Shriver, one of Eunice's five children, spoke with our Ray Suarez in 2006.
TIM SHRIVER, chairman, Special Olympics: She tells wonderful stories about in her teenage years sailing with her sister in a very competitive family, where one was expected to come back with a first-place finish in a sailboat race, and going out with Rosemary and realizing right there and then that she could sail, that she could pull on the jib, that she could crew, her sister could do things, and particularly do things in sports.
Rosemary was largely kept out of the public eye. But in 1962, Eunice Shriver wrote a candid article about mental retardation in an issue of the Saturday Evening Post. The article helped to ease the attached social stigma.
After her brother, John F. Kennedy, was elected president, she used the opportunity to push for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities.
Her brother, Senator Ted Kennedy.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, D-Mass.:
After President Kennedy was sworn in, he used to joke with the other members of the family that he always feared seeing Eunice, because Eunice always had an agenda.
In the summer of 1963, she ran a camp for developmentally disabled children and adults at the home in Maryland that she shared with her husband, Sargent Shriver, who helped launch the Peace Corps. Her son, Tim, recalled a remarkable scene.
I remember very clearly — I don't remember exactly what age, whether it was five or six years old — I remember looking out my window in the morning and seeing people come from institutions, get off yellow school buses, empty out into my backyard, raise the American flag, sing songs, and then fan out for kickball or for swimming or for horseback riding in this beautiful Maryland farm.
It took me a long time to realize that that wasn't normal, you know, to have 100 or so young people with intellectual disabilities in your backyard, wasn't a normal summer activity.
That fall, her brother, the president, was assassinated.
Sargent Shriver, his wife, Eunice, the late president's sister, and three of their four children are among the visitors at the grave.