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Mourners Pay Tribute To Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Maria Shriver helps Special Olympian and multiple medalist Loretta Claiborne at a wake for Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in Centerville, Mass.
Stephan Savoia
/
AP
Maria Shriver helps Special Olympian and multiple medalist Loretta Claiborne at a wake for Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in Centerville, Mass.

Special Olympians, dignitaries and ordinary citizens gathered Thursday to pay their respects to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the champion of the disabled who died Tuesday.

Members of the Kennedy family — including Shriver's husband, 93-year-old Sargent Shriver; her daughter, California first lady Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger; and nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — began arriving at Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church in Centerville, Mass., early in the afternoon for a six-hour public wake. An invitation-only funeral Mass is scheduled for Friday.

Shriver's casket was surrounded by family photographs and pictures of Shriver at the Special Olympics. Residents said she attended Mass at the church every morning.

Among the mourners was a group of Special Olympians who carried yellow flowers and handmade condolence cards.

Gayle Carroll, a 64-year-old woman with disabilities, described Shriver as a kind woman who had helped Carroll improve her life.

"Mrs. Shriver, you did a wonderful job for the Special Olympics, and we are going to keep on doing it in the memory of you," Carroll said.

Shriver died early Tuesday morning at a Cape Cod hospital. She was 88 years old.

Loretta Claiborne, 55, a Special Olympian, described Shriver as a friend and said she left a legacy of helping all kinds of people.

"When I was standing at her casket, I put my head down and said, 'God, let me be part of this legacy to keep her legacy going,' " Claiborne said.

While many came to the wake to honor Shriver, some, like Kathleen Dee Horgan, 82, said it was a bond to the Kennedy family as a whole that brought her to the church.

The retired nurse, who lives not far from the family's Hyannis Port compound, recalled that Kennedy matriarch Rose Kennedy sent her a get-well letter after an accident she had as a child.

"I have always felt as if I were part of their family," said Horgan, who said a prayer as she knelt in front of Shriver's casket.

From NPR staff and member station WCAI in Cape Cod, Mass.

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