POTOMAC, Md. (AP) — R. Sargent Shriver was honored Saturday as much for his passion for helping others as his loving hugs and enjoyment of baseball.
Shriver, who fulfilled his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy’s campaign promise by starting the Peace Corps, developed the aid organization into an international force. Philanthropists and politicians who have worked to help others through charities were among hundreds honoring Shriver at a funeral Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, the Shriver family’s church in Potomac, Md.
Former President Bill Clinton, first lady Michelle Obama, U2 frontman Bono and singer Wyclef Jean were among those in attendance, along with members of the Kennedy and Shriver families.
One by one, some of Shriver’s 19 grandchildren read short remembrances about their grandfather, recalling his passion for helping people, his hugs and his love of baseball.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington told Shriver’s grandchildren to live with the same courage and fortitude of Shriver and his late wife, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Wuerl spoke of Shriver’s legacy and belief that the world could be filled with peace, compassion and love.
“Ask your parents to tell you stories. Read what your grandfather has written,” Wuerl said. “When you think of him, rejoice in the heritage he has given you.”
Shriver’s son, Anthony Shriver, welcomed the guests before the Mass began, cracking jokes and honoring his father.
“He loved all people, all different types of people from all different backgrounds,” Anthony Shriver said.
And he recalled one of his last conversations with his father. He said his father told him: “You tell Cardinal Wuerl to make Eunice a saint!” The crowd erupted in laughter.
Wyclef Jean played piano and sang “All the Ends of the Earth” as guests including the Shriver family clapped along. Later, Vanessa Williams sang “Soon and Very Soon.”
Shriver’s other children also spoke of their father’s legacy. Tim Shriver — now chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics — said his father never coddled the children but “coached us to pursue those big, big ideas.”
“Sarge” Shriver never chose to see the world as jaded and broken, Tim Shriver said. Instead, he saw it as “infused with God’s spirit. Awe breaking through at each moment.”
He encouraged others to see the world the way his father did: “I hope you, too, will carry a little ‘Sarge’ in you.”
Maria Shriver, the former NBC reporter and wife of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said her family took comfort in “knowing that Daddy is in heaven with God and with Mummy.”
Although he was a visionary who hoped for a better world, Shriver also had a whimsical side. He was an old-fashioned Irish storyteller who “never let the facts get in the way of a good story,” Mark Shriver said.
Sargent Shriver was a businessman and lawyer descended from a prominent Maryland family. His wife died in 2009 at age 88.
Shriver will be buried later Saturday in the same cemetery as his wife in Hyannis, Mass.
Sargent Shriver was former Sen. George McGovern’s running mate in the 1972 presidential election, but the Democrats lost in a landslide to President Richard M. Nixon.
“He never was snippy like I get when I haven’t had any sleep.”
That optimistic attitude was something Shriver carried with him all his life, Biden said. He recalled Shriver’s selfless service for years, which he did with a combination of heart and intellect.
“He refused to allow pessimism to shape his thinking,” he said.
In 1994, Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“I’ll never forget him there in the White House and you looking at him and giving him one of those big Bill Clinton hugs, and my dad looking back at you with a huge smile on his face and looking at you and giving that Sarge Shriver hug and you wrapping that medal around his neck,” he said. “Wow was he high that day.”
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