Hundreds mourn Kennedy sister at funeral


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 14, 2009 at 12:11 PM EDT

Hundreds of mourners turned out Friday for the funeral of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics and sister of slain US president John F. Kennedy.

Vice President Joe Biden was among mourners joining the Kennedy clan for the funeral at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic church in the town of Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Special Olympics athletes carried a torch and lined the street, while Shriver's four sons acted as pall bearers.

However, Shriver's brother Senator Ted Kennedy, himself gravely ill with brain cancer, was not expected to attend.

The ceremony returned Shriver, who died Tuesday at the age of 88, to the heart of the Kennedy family's political fiefdom in the upscale Cape Cod region of Massachusetts.

Saint Francis Xavier was the same church where Shriver's daughter Maria married California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a 1986 match that added a powerful Republican arm to the famously Democratic clan.

A public wake was held in the church on Thursday, attended by thousands of people, including celebrities such as TV host Oprah Winfrey.

Shriver won lasting respect as a champion of the mentally disabled, a cause inspired by her experience of having a disabled sister, Rosemary.

Starting in 1962 with a summer camp at her home in Maryland, Shriver went on to build the Special Olympics into a major association that now counts almost three million athletes in more than 180 countries.

Shriver will also be remembered for being at the core of a family that for decades towered over the Democratic party, serving almost as American royalty.

She was sister to president John F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1963, and to Robert Kennedy, a senator who had served as attorney general and was assassinated in 1968 while campaigning for the presidency.

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