Mary Kennedy's funeral set for Saturday

Story highlights

  • Mary Kennedy married Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 1994
  • The couple was estranged but still married
  • She was found dead from asphyxiation by hanging
  • A wake was planned for Friday evening, a Kennedy family publicist said

She might have gone unnoticed through the many years of triumphs and tragedies of the Kennedy family. Now the spotlight will be cast, sadly, on Mary Richardson Kennedy.

The estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was found dead Wednesday in Bedford, New York, the small town north of New York City where she lived. She died of asphyxiation due to hanging, the Westchester County medical examiner said.

The Kennedy clan will gather once again for a funeral. This time, it's Mary's.

Mary Kennedy's family blasts stories on her death

A wake was planned for Friday evening, Kennedy family publicist Ken Sunshine said. It will take place in the Bedford mansion that Kennedy, an architect, and her husband lovingly restored into an eco-friendly home after flooding left it infested with black mold.

Her funeral is planned for Saturday morning at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bedford, Sunshine said.

A private memorial service has also been planned in Manhattan, Kennedy's family said in a statement.

She will be buried in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, where the Kennedy family has a compound.

Mary Kennedy married Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 1994. The prominent environmental lawyer is the third of 11 children born to Ethel and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was gunned down in 1968.

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The assassination was one of a string of tragedies to befall the Kennedy family, America's royal family in the absence of monarchy. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, five years before his younger brother.

More than three decades later, in 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, died when a plane he was piloting crashed in the waters off Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

David Kennedy died of a drug overdose in 1984, and Michael Kennedy was killed in a skiing accident in 1997. Both were sons of Robert F. Kennedy Sr.

"We know from a history of this family, it's very hard being a Kennedy, either being a blood Kennedy or being married to one," Kennedy biographer Laurence Leamer said.

"The overwhelming celebrity, the attention, the obligations, the expectations that you're supposed to do something with your life. It's very, very hard."

And now comes the shock of Mary Kennedy's death at age 52, though her troubles were well-known.

The details of the couple's private life surfaced after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed for divorce in 2010. After that, Mary Kennedy was charged once with driving while intoxicated and once with driving while impaired by prescription drugs, according to Bedford police.

"A lot of times, I don't know how she made it through the day," Robert Kennedy told The New York Times. "She was in a lot of agony for a lot of her life."

Her family criticized media accounts of her death for what they called "inaccuracies and misrepresentations" of her life.

"While we would naturally prefer to remain private at this very upsetting time, we feel compelled to make this statement because the description of Mary carried by certain news organizations since her passing yesterday is wholly inconsistent with the sister we knew and the life she, in fact, lived," her family said in a written statement.

"We loved Mary and knew her to be an exceptional mother, sibling and friend to many," they said. "Countless people have described her as an extraordinary mother, selfless in her desire to help others, and one of the finest people in the world. We know her as all those things, and more."

Mary Kennedy stood by her husband's side, bearing Kennedy grief through the years. Now, it is her turn to be grieved.

"You know, you sometimes hear things like 'I've lost my right arm'?" Kerry Kennedy, sister of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., told The New York Times about the friend she met in boarding school and roomed with at Brown University. "I feel like I've lost half my body, half my soul."