Jean Kennedy Smith, the last surviving sibling of the late President John F. Kennedy, has passed away. She was 92. The former U.S. ambassador died Wednesday, June 17, in New York City. Following her passing, Jean’s daughter Kym Smith told NBC News that her mother “lived an amazing life.” Maria Shriver remembered her late aunt on the Today show Thursday morning. “She was an extraordinary woman. Had a great career on behalf of this country as ambassador to Ireland promoting peace there and also started a Very Special Arts for people with intellectual disabilities,” she said.
Katherine Schwarzenegger’s mother added: “I take solace in the fact that she is joining every other member of her family up in heaven. It’s nice for her.”
Born in 1928 in Boston, Massachusetts, Jean was the second youngest of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Kennedy’s nine children: Joseph Jr., John, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, and Edward “Ted.” Unlike her siblings, Jean never ran for office, but campaigned for her brothers. Per NBC News, Jean wrote in her memoir The Nine of Us that her childhood seemed “unexceptional.” “It is hard for me to fully comprehend that I was growing up with brothers who eventually occupy the highest offices of our nation, including president of the United States,” she shared. “At the time, they were simply my playmates. They were the source of my amusement and the objects of my admiration.”
"She was an extraordinary woman...I take solace in the fact that she is joining every other member of her family up in heaven," says @MariaShriver on the passing of Jean Kennedy who died yesterday at the age of 92. pic.twitter.com/5MesyqE6Ek— 3rd Hour of TODAY (@3rdHourTODAY) June 18, 2020
Growing up, Jean never felt lonely. “Certainly a distinct characteristic of our family was its size,” she wrote in her memoir (via Boston Herald). “A child in a big family constantly feels surrounded and supported. For me, there was always someone to play with or someone to talk to just around the corner, out on the porch, or in the next bedroom. I never felt alone.”
In 1974, Jean founded the international non-profit organization Very Special Arts [VSA] as an affiliate of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. VSA helps people with disabilities develop learning skills, nurture independence and self-worth, and enhance well-being through creative writing, dance, drama, music and the visual arts.
Like her father, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Jean was appointed ambassador to Ireland in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, who called her “as Irish as an American can be.” “We’re the first father-daughter ambassadors,” she told The Irish Times in 1997. “So I can’t remember a time when we were not an actively political family.”
Jean had four children of her own, daughters Kym and Amanda and sons Stephen Jr. and William, whom she shared with her husband Stephen E. Smith, who died in 1990.