Special Olympics Founder Eunice Shriver Dies at 88

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After suffering a series of strokes that put her in Cape Cod Hospital for the past week, Kennedy heiress Eunice Shriver died early this morning in the company of her friends and family. Shriver counted Ted, Robert, and John F. Kennedy as brothers, and her daughter Maria Shriver is married to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She herself never held elected office, but her work on behalf of the mentally handicapped — and her founding of the Special Olympics — kept her on the national stage for much of her life. As early as the fifties, Shriver was working to eliminate the stigma of mental retardation, and was personally responsible for huge changes in American culture on that front. (Her sister Rose was born developmentally disabled.) “If I never met Rosemary, never knew anything about handicapped children, how would I have ever found out?” she once asked. “Because nobody accepted them anyplace.” For her work throughout her lifetime, according to the Times, Shriver was awarded the Legion of Honor, the Prix de la Couronne Française, the Albert Lasker Public Service Award, and was made a dame of the Papal Order of Saint Gregory. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Founder of Special Olympics, Dies at 88 [NYT]