She was the light of our lives, a mother, wife, grandmother, sister and aunt who taught us by example and with passion what it means to live a faith-driven life of love and service to others. For each of us, she often seemed to stop time itself—to run another Special Olympics games, to visit us in our homes, to attend to her own mother, her sisters and brothers, and to sail, tell stories, and laugh and serve her friends. How did she do it all?
Inspired by her love of God, her devotion to her family, and her relentless belief in the dignity and worth of every human life, she worked without ceasing—searching, pushing, demanding, hoping for change. She was a living prayer, a living advocate, a living center of power. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more. She founded the movement that became Special Olympics, the largest movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in the history of the world. Her work transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe, and they in turn are her living legacy.
We have always been honored to share our mother with people of good will the world over who believe, as she did, that there is no limit to the human spirit. At this time of loss, we feel overwhelmed by the gifts of prayer and support poured out to us from so many who loved her. We are together in our belief that she is now in heaven, rejoicing with her family, enjoying the fruits of her faith, and still urging us onward to the challenges ahead. Her love will inspire us to faith and service always.
She was forever devoted to the Blessed Mother. May she be welcomed now by Mary to the joy and love of life everlasting, in the certain truth that her love and spirit will live forever.
Statement from Oprah Winfrey
August 11, 2009
Eunice Shriver lived as a champion, and I admired her so much. She was the first (and besides Barack Obama, the only) person who ever inspired me to say, "If you run for president, I'll campaign for you." This was in the 1980s. I believed then and still do that she would have made a great president. She embodied the idea of leader as servant.
In 2004, I was vacationing in the Caribbean when the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami hit. I was standing at the edge of a pier overlooking the water when suddenly I heard a strange commotion. Coming toward me was a woman wearing a swimsuit, a bathrobe, and a pink bathing cap flipped up around her ears; arms waving in the air, she was calling my name loudly. It was Eunice.
She wasted barely a moment on the niceties of Long time, no see, How are you, blah, blah. Instead, she dove right in: "I know you're on vacation, but what are you planning to do about the tsunami?"
"I…I…I don't have a plan right now," I stuttered. "I feel terrible, though. It's just awful what happened."
"Everybody feels terrible," she said. "But you can do something. Call Maria. Set up a meeting. Make a plan. Meet with Teddy. Do something."
This, to me, is the essence of Eunice Shriver. She was a woman who got things done.