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Funeral remembers Shriver's love of others, service

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Timothy Shriver on his 'roommate'
  • Services held at Catholic church in Potomac, Maryland
  • Shriver was the founding director of the Peace Corps and headed the Special Olympics
  • Shriver died at age 95 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for years
  • His children include Maria Shriver, former first lady of California

Potomac, Maryland (CNN) -- Almost 50 years to the day that President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address asked Americans to get involved by doing good, family and friends bade farewell Saturday to R. Sargent Shriver, who helped lead the way.

Former President Bill Clinton referred to Kennedy's famous line, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Shriver, Clinton said at a funeral Mass in Potomac, Maryland, gave the perfect example of public service, both at the bright-eyed beginning of the 1960s and the cynical end of the decade and in the early 1970s.

"He showed up every day and found joy in life," Clinton said of Shriver, first director of the Peace Corps, and a force -- with his late wife -- behind the Special Olympics. Shriver was Kennedy's brother-in-law.

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The message of unconditional love, faith and service were themes throughout the service at Our Lady of Mercy. There also were moments of humor, including references to Shriver's hugs and hearty handshakes.

"I am asking you to be apostles of Sarge," son Anthony Shriver told political and entertainment luminaries and ordinary people alike.

Shriver, 95, died Tuesday after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for years. His wife of 56 years, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died in 2009.

Anthony Shriver encouraged people to wake up each morning with boundless energy and a commitment to change the world, fight poverty and be a friend.

Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to Shriver's daughter, Maria, were in attendance.

Bono and fellow Irish singer Glen Hansard performed "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace," a song from the Prayer of St. Francis.

In part it says, "Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."

Singer Wyclef Jean led the hand-clapping congregation in singing Psalm 98. Vanessa Williams performed "Soon and Very Soon" following tender intercessions and remembrances by Shriver's grandchildren, who mentioned Shriver's smile, service and love of baseball.

The service concluded with Bob Dylan's "Forever Young," with Stevie Wonder playing harmonica

During his homily, Cardinal Donald Wuerl cited Shriver's work with many initiatives.

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"He fought injustice and poverty his whole life," said Wuerl. "He worked with religious leaders and everyone to speak out for peace and economic opportunity for the underprivileged."

Wuerl recalled Shriver attending a Mass for people with special needs.

"Sargent Shriver already demonstrated then the effects of age and illness, but he was there," the cardinal said.

In his remarks, Biden credited Shriver with leading a rally that helped him, at 29, earn an unlikely U.S. Senate victory in Delaware in 1972.

Shriver's four other children also gave remembrances.

Maria Shriver told the standing-room-only audience that her father taught his sons to be gentle, loving men.

"He'll never be far from me," she said.

Timothy Shriver said some dismissed his father as too idealistic, too cheery and too public in his Catholic faith.

But the younger Shriver said he appreciated his father's spirit and zest for life.

"I hope you, too, can carry a little Sarge in you," he told mourners.

Mark Shriver talked of his father's faith and commitment to the church.

Sargent Shriver wrote a letter to the family before his illness, saying he was looking forward to meeting God. "I expect to get to eternity first" and prepare the way, he wrote.

Robert "Bobby" Shriver recalled his "complete humiliation" upon being arrested on marijuana charges when he was a teen. His father offered support, and gave no criticism or moralizing, Bobby Shriver recalled.

An unidentified woman standing in the back of the church apparently fainted at one point during the funeral. William Kennedy Smith, a physician and nephew of President Kennedy, came to her aid and helped assist her outside.

After overseeing the Peace Corps launch in the early 1960s, Shriver went on to serve subsequent presidential administrations. He kept up his activism throughout his life, becoming a chief architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson's war on poverty and later heading the Special Olympics founded by his wife.

The Peace Corps is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. More than 200,000 volunteers have served in 139 countries on issues such as education, public health and environmental preservation.

Shriver's entree into the Kennedy family was Joseph P. Kennedy, the family patriarch, who hired him to run a business venture in Chicago. The work led to an introduction to Eunice Kennedy, whose siblings included JFK, Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy.

After his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Shriver was tapped by Johnson to launch the White House Office of Economic Opportunity, which was made up of a handful of anti-poverty programs.

He also served as Republican President Richard Nixon's ambassador to France before becoming Democrat George McGovern's running mate in 1972, as the two unsuccessfully tried to unseat Nixon.

Shriver also served as chairman of the board of Special Olympics International, which Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded in 1968. The organization sponsors sports training events around the world for people with intellectual disabilities.

Shriver was born in Westminster, Maryland, and graduated from Yale University. He was also long active in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Shrivers had five children, including Maria Shriver, the former first lady of California.

CNN's Larry Lazo contributed to this report.