Click For Home PageInclusion Daily Express Logo

International Disability Rights News Service
Click here for today's headlines

Keeping advocates informed, inspired and connected since 1999.
Click here for daily or weekly delivery . . . OR
Try Inclusion Daily Express for two weeks FREE . . .

Rosemary Kennedy Dies At Age 86
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 7, 2005

FORT ATKINSON, WISCONSIN--Rose Marie Kennedy, the oldest sister of President John F. Kennedy, died Friday at Fort Atkinson Memorial Health Hospital.

She was 86.

Known by family and friends as "Rosemary" or "Rosie", she was surrounded by brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and her sisters, including Eunice Kennedy Shriver. According to the family, she died of natural causes after a recent illness.

"Rosemary was a lifelong jewel to every member of our family. She was always a loving presence in our lives," the family said in a statement. "From her earliest years, her mental retardation was a continuing inspiration to each of us, and a powerful source of our family's commitment to do all we can to help all persons with disabilities live full and productive lives."

Rosemary was born in 1918, the year after her famous brother, John. Early on, it became apparent to her parents, Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy Sr, that she had mild mental retardation. The family kept her away from the public during her early years. Even so, she often traveled with the family and wrote diaries from 1936 to 1938 describing the things she liked to do and the people she met.

As Rosemary became a young adult, her family disapproved of what some considered her "aggressive" and "inappropriate sexual" behavior: She reportedly started sneaking out of the convent that was her home to spend time with men, drink, smoke, and dance.

This behavior worried her parents, who were afraid she might become pregnant or get a disease. Some historians have written that her father, who was U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain at the time, also worried Rosemary might embarrass the family or jeopardize his plans for at least one of Kennedy son to become President.

In 1941, when Rosemary was 23, her father secretly arranged for a neurosurgeon to perform a prefrontal lobotomy -- perhaps the first done in the United States on a person with mental retardation -- to calm her and change her behavior. The operation caused significant brain damage, however, leaving Rosemary unable to speak or do many things for herself.

She was admitted in 1949 to St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children, which at one time housed 600 people with developmental disabilities, where she stayed until just before her death.

Rosemary's life is being described today by major news sources as the inspiration of the Special Olympics, which Eunice formed in 1968.

But the impact of her life on the Kennedy family's commitment to people with intellectual disabilities is much more broad and far-reaching.

It is likely that President Kennedy had his little sister in mind during his first year in office when he formed the President's Panel on Mental Retardation, which two years ago became the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. President Kennedy also championed Public Law 88-164, which mandated training and education for children with all types of disabilities. The law also provided for a nation-wide network of University Affiliated Programs to train professionals and improve the care of Americans with intellectual disabilities.

Her brother Senator Edward Kennedy has also been a supporter of numerous causes and sponsor of laws designed to benefit people with disabilities.

Anthony Kennedy Shriver, son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver, founded Best Buddies, an organization which fosters one-to-one friendships between students with and without intellectual disabilities.

"Millions of people of all ages have greater hope today because of Rosemary," the Kennedy family said in its brief statement.

"Kennedy family statement on passing of Rosemary Kennedy" (Associated Press via Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

Click here for top of this page

Purchase this story for your website or newsletter . . .

Here's what subscribers say about Inclusion Daily Express. . .

Keeping advocates informed, inspired and connected since 1999.
Click here for daily or weekly delivery . . . OR
Try Inclusion Daily Express for two weeks FREE . . .

Get your news here!

Inclusion Daily Express
3231 W. Boone Ave., # 711
Spokane, Washington 99201 USA
Phone: 509-326-5811
Copyright © 2006 Inonit Publishing