HYANNIS, Mass. – Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the presidential sister who founded the Special Olympics, was celebrated Friday at a funeral Mass as a fearless warrior for the voiceless who changed the world for millions and an unconventional woman who smoked Cuban cigars and played tackle football.
"She was scary smart and not afraid to show it," Maria Shriver said of her mother, who died Tuesday at age 88. "If she were here today ... she would pound this podium ... and ask each of you what you have done today to better the world."
The Special Olympics torch led a procession for Shriver past thousands of onlookers who lined the streets outside St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church as friends, family and athletes from the movement she founded a half-century ago gathered for the private service.
Shriver's only living brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, who has been battling brain cancer, did not attend the funeral.
Maria Shriver, her husband, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other family members carried the casket into the church, the same place where the two were married 23 years earlier.
Standing with her four brothers during her eulogy, Maria Shriver 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 was getting 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."
Loretta Claiborne, a former Special Olympics athlete and longtime friend of Shriver's, delivered welcoming remarks at the service, also attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi and Massachusetts Gov. 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," 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, also was 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.
"He let her rip and he let roar and he loved everything about her," he said.
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, 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.
"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."