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Special Olympics torch lights Eunice Kennedy Shriver's funeral

  • Story Highlights
  • Funeral for Eunice Kennedy Shriver in Hyannis, Massachusetts
  • Shriver founded Special Olympics; athletes carry torch into church
  • Shriver was fifth of nine children of Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • 3.1 million people participate in Special Olympics in 170 nations
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HYANNIS, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Family and close friends of Eunice Kennedy Shriver attended a Friday morning funeral for the sister of the late President John F. Kennedy.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver speaks at a dinner in honor of the Special Olympics in July 2006.

Special Olympics athlete Loretta Claiborne, at casket, and Maria Shriver attend Eunice Shriver's wake Thursday.

Shriver, a champion of the disabled who founded the Special Olympics, died Tuesday at age 88.

A private funeral service was held at Saint Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Before the service began, Special Olympians carried the Special Olympics torch into the church, a family statement said. They took part in a procession toward the church, followed by the hearse and the Shriver family walking behind. Video Watch Maria Shriver pay tribute to her mother »

The funeral follows a public wake and prayer service that was held Thursday at Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church in Centerville, Massachusetts.

Details about her private burial will not released until after Shriver is laid to rest.

Born on July 10, 1921, in Brookline, Massachusetts, Shriver was the fifth of nine children of Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.

She emerged from the long shadow of siblings John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Sen. Edward Kennedy as the founder of the Special Olympics, which started as a summer day camp in her backyard in 1962.

Today, 3.1 million people with mental disabilities participate in 228 programs in 170 nations, according to the Special Olympics.

"Eunice is now with God in heaven. My sister Jean and I, and our entire family, will miss her with all our hearts," Edward Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, said on his Web site. "I know that our parents and brothers and sisters who have gone before are filled with joy to have her by their side again."

Her health began to fail in recent years, landing her in the hospital in 2005 after a minor stroke and hip fracture. She was hospitalized again in 2007 for an undisclosed ailment.

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She is survived by her husband, R. Sargent Shriver Jr., who ran President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty in the 1960s and was Democrat George McGovern's running mate in the 1972 presidential election.

Other survivors include her daughter, Maria Shriver, California's first lady; and sons Robert Sargent Shriver III, Timothy Perry Shriver, Mark Kennedy Shriver, and Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver.

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