A tireless worker for the cause of the mentally disabled, Ms Shriver had suffered stokes on a regular basis during recent years but the exact cause of her death has not been disclosed. She was admitted to hospital last week and had remained in a critical condition up to the time of her death.
The mother of 5 children and grandmother to 19 she was married to R. Sargent Shriver, who survives her, for over 56 years. One of her daughters, Maria Shriver, is married to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California.
Her sister Rosemary, who died in 2005 and was mentally disabled from the age of 23, is credited with being the inspiration behind Ms Shriver's founding of the Special Olympics movement in 1962, its first international games being held in 1968, and the organization's President and Chief Operation Officer Brady Lum released the following statement after hearing of Ms Shriver's death:
We are tremendously grateful for the extreme outpouring of support and prayer from the public as we honor our beloved founder. Today we celebrate the life of a woman who had the vision to create our movement. It is an enormous loss, but I know we can rest assured that her legacy will live on through her family, friends, and the millions of people around the world who she touched and transformed
reports Ms Shriver received a host of awards and other forms of recognition for her campaigning work, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and nine honorary degrees.
Ms Shriver had 8 brothers and sisters in all, the most famous of them being John F. Kennedy, the man elected U.S. President in 1960 and assassinated during a visit to Dallas, Texas in 1963. Her other siblings include Robert F. Kennedy, a politician who like his elder brother was eventually assassinated, and Senator Edward Kennedy, who is currently battling against brain cancer. As with 3 of his sons Ms Shriver's father Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. was also a well known politician, whilst her mother Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was a keen philanthropist who supported her daughter with her Special Olympics work.
The family of Ms Shriver issued their own statement shortly after her death and in it they referred to her as the “light of our lives ... who taught us by example and with passion what it means to live a faith-driven life of love and service to others.”. According to MSNBC
the statement adds:
She was a living prayer, a living advocate, a living center of power. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more. She founded the movement that became Special Olympics, the largest movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in the history of the world. Her work transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe, and they in turn are her living legacy