Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the presidential sister who founded the Special Olympics, was celebrated as a fearless warrior for the voiceless.
Her son-in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger was joined by other celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder, as he paid tribute to the 'unconventional woman' who often smoked Cuban cigars and played tackle football.
The Terminator star's wife Maria Shriver shared fond memories of her mother, who she described as 'scary smart and not afraid to show it'.
Shriver died on Tuesday aged 88, after suffering a series of strokes in recent years.
'If she were here today... she would pound this podium... and ask each of you what you have done today to better the world,' Maria said.
The Special Olympics torch led a procession for Shriver past thousands of onlookers who lined the streets outside St Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in Hyannis, Massachusetts, as friends, family and athletes from the movement she founded in 1968 gathered for the private service.
Shriver's only living brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, was unable to attend the funeral due to his ongoing battle with brain cancer.
Maria, her husband and other family members carried the casket into the church, the same place where the couple were married 23 years earlier.
Standing with her four brothers during her eulogy, Maria said her 'Mummy' liked to hang with the guys, but all her heroes - expect her brother, Jack - were women.
She said she was grateful her mother's life and work had attracted so much attention, particularly for young women to see a role model of a woman who never conformed to what society might have wanted.
'Mummy wore men's pants, smoked Cuban cigars and she played tackle football,' she said. 'Our mother never rested, she never stopped. She was momentum on wheels.'
Brought together: Schwarzenneger with young relatives of Shriver enter Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church for the wake
Loretta Claiborne, a former Special Olympics athlete and long-time friend of Shriver's, delivered welcoming remarks at the service, also attended by vice president Joe Biden, Jon Bon Jovi and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
'She was chosen to have a life to serve others, the weakest of the weak, the castaways, the throwaways of society, at the time they would say the mentally retarded, and I am one of those people,' Ms Claiborne said.
Shriver's 19 grandchildren each offered prayers - giving thanks to her for teaching them to sail, for insisting girls are equal to boys, and for the lesson of helping those in need.
The two-hour service wrapped up with a rousing rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In.
Shriver's husband, R. Sargent Shriver, a 1972 vice presidential candidate, who has Alzheimer's disease, was also at the service.
Maria Shriver said her father never minded when her mother's hair was unkempt or she beat him in a game of tennis.
Big names: Stevie Wonder Oprah Winfrey were among the celebrities to pay their respects to Shriver
The crowds of people outside, including residents, tourists and Special Olympians, were largely silent for the procession as the church bell rang and a lone bagpipe whined.
After the Mass, many in the crowd clapped as family members carried the casket out of the church while others snapped photos.
She was buried at the St. Francis Xavier parish cemetery in nearby Centerville after a brief private graveside service.
Mourners lit candles from the Special Olympics torch, and her son, Tim Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics International, called forward the athletes who were there to be nearer to the casket.
Three Irish musicians who were sent to the service by Bono led the group in singing Bob Dylan's Forever Young.
The opening funeral procession was led by law enforcers and athletes, including Marguerite Heffernan, of Harwich, a Special Olympian in 1968, and her 27-year-old son Shawn, from Orleans, who carried the Special Olympics torch.
Long-time friend: Special Olympian Loretta Claiborne touches the casket of Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the St Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church
'It was great,' said Shawn Heffernan, who has won 49 swimming medals. 'I'd done it before, but this was different.'
His mother held her swimming medals from 1971 and recalled the impact Shriver had made on their lives.
'She helped open doors,' she said. 'We gained freedom from hiding.'
Friday, August 14, 2009
Source: Daily Mail