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Family, friends remember Shriver as idealist dedicated to others

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 ranging from philanthropist and musician Bono to Vice President Biden to former President Bill Clinton honored a man who dedicated his life to serving others.

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

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 in the world, said his son, Mark Shriver. "Daddy saw people helping people."

Others were inspired by Shriver to their own social activism.

"I was a student really of the Sarge way of doing things," U2 frontman Bono said after singing at the service. "It's a rare combination of grace and strategy."

Bono founded the Red Campaign with Shriver's eldest son Bobby to fight AIDS in Africa.

First lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey attended the service. Wyclef Jean played the piano and sang "All the Ends of the Earth" as guests and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, clapped along.

Later, Vanessa Williams performed "Soon and Very Soon." Bono and Glen Hansard, who starred in the movie "Once," sang "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace."

Shriver's youngest son, Anthony Shriver, welcomed guests before the Mass began. He recalled one of his last conversations with his father, who told him: "You tell Cardinal Wuerl to make Eunice a saint!" The crowd erupted in laughter.

Shriver's wife was Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She died in 2009 at age 88.

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

Maria Shriver, a 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, a businessman and lawyer descended from a prominent Maryland family, 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 working on the difficult campaign 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.

"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.

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