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Anthony Shriver, Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzenegger
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP
The casket of R. Sargent Shriver is carried into Our Lady of Mercy Catholic church for a funeral Mass in Potomac, Md., just outside Washington on Saturday. Shriver, the man responsible for launching the Peace Corps after marrying into the Kennedy family, died last Tuesday at the age of 95.
updated 1/22/2011 6:03:19 PM ET 2011-01-22T23:03:19

R. Sargent Shriver was always an optimist, pioneering the Peace Corps and running the War on Poverty during the turbulent 1960s — an idealist even as the running mate on a Democratic presidential ticket doomed for failure.

At his funeral Mass on Saturday, mourners from philanthropist and musician Bono to Vice President Joe Biden to former President Bill Clinton honored a man who dedicated his life to serving others. The celebration was filled with songs, laughter and fond memories.

"Fifty years ago, President Kennedy told us we should ask what we can do for our country," Clinton told the gathering at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. "A whole generation of us understood what President Kennedy meant by looking at Sargent Shriver's life."

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Shriver, who died Tuesday at age 95, was affectionately known as "Sarge." He grew up during the Great Depression, went to Yale on a scholarship and served in the Navy during World War II. Then, he fulfilled his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy's campaign promise by developing the Peace Corps into a lasting international force.

"When he was starting the Peace Corps from scratch, many people thought he was naive and too idealistic, wanting to send a bunch of young Americans abroad" to some of the poorest countries of the world, said his son, Mark Shriver. "Daddy saw people helping people."

Others were inspired to their own social activism.

"I was a student really of the Sarge way of doing things," U2 frontman Bono told The Associated Press after singing at the service. Bono founded the Red Campaign with Shriver's eldest son Bobby to fight AIDS in Africa.

"It's a rare combination of grace and strategy," Bono said of Sargent Shriver.

First lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey attended. Wyclef Jean played the piano and sang "All the Ends of the Earth" as guests — and even Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington — clapped along. Later, Vanessa Williams softly performed "Soon and Very Soon." Bono and Glen Hansard, who starred in the movie "Once," sang "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace."

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One by one, many of Shriver's 19 grandchildren read short remembrances about their grandfather, recalling his passion for helping people, his hugs and his love of baseball.

Cardinal Wuerl told Shriver's grandchildren to live with the same courage and conviction.

Shriver's youngest son, Anthony Shriver, welcomed guests before the Mass began, cracking jokes and honoring his father for always making people feel valued. Anthony Shriver recalled one of his last conversations with his father. He said his father told him: "You tell Cardinal Wuerl to make Eunice a saint!" The crowd erupted in laughter.

Shriver's late wife was Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Tim Shriver — now chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics — said his father never coddled the children but "coached us to pursue those big, big ideas."

Tim Shriver encouraged others to see the world the way his father did: "I hope you, too, will carry a little Sarge in you."

Maria Shriver, the former NBC reporter and wife of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said her family took comfort in "knowing that Daddy is in heaven with God and with Mummy."

Sargent Shriver was a businessman and lawyer descended from a prominent Maryland family. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the past eight years. His wife died in 2009 at age 88.

Shriver will be buried Saturday in the same cemetery as his wife in Hyannis, Mass.

Mark Shriver recalled some of his father's final years.

"Alzheimer's robs you of so much. In Dad's case, it stripped him to the core," he said. Still, he "would shake your hand and smile, look you in the eye and tell you you were the greatest and that he loves you."

Sargent Shriver was former Sen. George McGovern's running mate in the 1972 presidential election, but the Democrats lost in a landslide to President Richard M. Nixon.

Clinton recalled that difficult campaign he worked on, and knowing the McGovern-Shriver ticket would lose. "Everyone knew President Nixon was going to win re-election, unless he robbed a bank," Clinton said, drawing laughs.

Still, Shriver campaigned until the end, even when it was most difficult.

"Sargent Shriver was going to go out with his head held high," Clinton said.

Biden credited Shriver for helping him win his own Senate seat in Delaware during a tough race that same year.

A last-minute visit from Shriver put him over the top in a heavily Republican state at the time. "That's when the sun rose for me," Biden said.

"He refused to allow pessimism to shape his thinking," Biden said. "It wasn't in his DNA."

In 1994, Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. His son Anthony recalled the day his father received that honor, addressing Clinton.

"I'll never forget him there in the White House and you looking at him and giving him one of those big Bill Clinton hugs," he said. "Wow was he high that day."

As the family walked out with the casket, Bono and Hansard led the crowd in singing "Forever Young."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Family, friends bid farewell to Sargent Shriver

  1. Closed captioning of: Family, friends bid farewell to Sargent Shriver

    >> family and friends gathered for the funeral of sargent shriver . they came from many walks of life.

    >> those who personally knew sargent shriver loved him. he was remembered for tarti istarting the peace corp under his brother-in-law john f kennedy . but for being a good man.

    >> could anybody really be as good as he seemed to be? i mean come on now. [ applause ]

    >> come on. every other man in this church feels about two inches tall right now.

    >> among others, he touched the rock star bono who sang his tribute. of your peace

    >> as did stevie wonder .

    >> maria shriver spoke of how she saw her father.

    >> for me, perhaps his greatest achievement was showing us in our family how to show up in other people's lives and how to love uncondition alleunconditionally. he was buried next

Photos: R. Sargent Shriver dies at 95

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  1. Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. escorts his bride, the former Eunice Kennedy, from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on May 23, 1953. Shriver had worked for Eunice Kennedy's father, the former abassador to the United Kingdom, in Chicago. Shriver went on to be a former U.S. vice presidential nominee and served as the first Peace Corps director. He died Jan. 18 at age 95. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Sargent Shriver served as a campaign coordinator for John F. Kennedy. Here, President-elect Kennedy, center, is surrounded by members of his family in the living room of the home of Joseph P. Kennedy, John's father, on Nov. 9, 1960. Standing, left to right: Ethel Kennedy; Steve Smith and wife, Jean Kennedy; Sen. Kennedy; brother Robert Kennedy, campaign manager; sister, Patricia Lawford; Shriver; brother Ted's wife, Joan; and British actor Peter Lawford. In the foreground, seated are: sister Eunice Shriver, left; mother Rose Kennedy; father Joseph; Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of John, and his brother, Ted Kennedy. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. President John F. Kennedy and Sargent Shriver, first director of the Peace Corps, left, host a White House reception for the inaugural group of Peace Corps volunteers on Aug. 28, 1961. The volunteers were to serve in Ghana and Tanganyika (later Tanzania). (Joseph Scherschel / Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. After John F. Kennedy's assassination, Shriver was among the family at the funeral Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington on Nov. 25, 1963. In front are Robert F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy. Behind Jacqueline Kennedy is Shriver. President Lyndon Johnson and first lady "Lady Bird" Johnson are in the background. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. This July 1965 photo shows 1-week-old Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver at Logan International Airport in Boston with his parents, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver. The Shrivers had five children, including jounalist and author Maria Shriver, wife of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (J. Walter Green / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Sargent Shriver and his wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver watch a satirical skit put on by staff at the Office of Economic Opportunity while serving in the Johnson administration in 1968. (Charles Harrity / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sargent Shriver stumps in Yonkers, New York, on Oct. 18, 1972. The George McGovern-Shriver ticket would lose to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in the November election that year. (Jim Wells / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver attend the Valentino Fashion Show benefiting Special Olympics in June, 1976. Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics in 1968. (Ron Galella / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, left, and Sargent Shriver, right, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, in an undated photo. (Ron Galella / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, celebrates with his wife's parents, Sargent and Eunice Shriver after Schwarzenegger's victory in the recall election in Los Angeles in 2003. In August 2009, Eunice Shriver preceeded her husband in death. (Blake Sell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Sargent Shriver is escorted at church by his son Anthony Kennedy Shriver, right, at the funeral for Sen. Edward Kennedy, his brother-in-law, in August 2009. Behind him are President Barack Obama, third from left, former President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Brian Snyder / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzenegger and other loved ones carry the casket of Sargent Shriver into at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, Jan. 22, in Potomac, Md. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Former President Bill Clinton, Sen. John Kerry, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attend the funeral service for Sargent Shriver at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church Jan. 22, in Potomac, Md. (Cliff Owen / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rock singer Bono leaves following the funeral Mass for Shriver at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic church in Potomac, Md., Jan. 22. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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