Always, Sargent Shriver
With the passing of the great humanitarian Sargent Shriver, I am sure that thousands of ordinary people like me have received a thoughtful personal letter from Mr. Shriver. Dutifully typed by his longtime and devoted assistant, Jeannie Main, Mr. Shriver was a prolific letter writer. As I think about him and looked at the letters he sent to me over the years, I noticed his signature closing, "Always."
Certainly more notable and prominent people will submit their tributes to this truly remarkable man, but my memories comes from the 20-plus years I had the pleasure of witnessing his love of life, love of family, love of faith and love of the programs he launched to help people in need. There were many such programs, ranging from the Peace Corps to Head Start to Job Corps, the program I know well.
My first encounter with Mr. Shriver was when I enlisted him to attend a Job Corps event. From that moment, his enthusiasm was evident. He spoke with passion and afterward men and women of all ages swarmed him to tell how Job Corps changed their lives. He actively listened to every one of them. Always genuine.
Then, unbelievably, in the 1990s it became known that Mr. Shriver had never been nominated nor presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. When I brought this to the attention of the Job Corps community, there was an instant outpouring of letters, support and calls to correct the oversight. It was wonderful to hear about Mr. Shriver receiving his medal and how his family had erupted at the White House in a joyous whoop. When he made his acceptance speech, however, he praised not himself but many others for their assistance with his numerous and great achievements. Always humble.
As the years moved along, I got to accompany Mr. Shriver to the dedication ceremony of a Job Corps center that bore his name in Massachusetts. After all the festivities at the new Shriver Job Corps Center were finished, my job was to get him on his flight home. When he discovered that he and his beloved wife were on separate flights due to schedule demands, he simply stated that he'd prefer they travel together. It was such a simple request that turned into a comedic story that has entertained my family and friends over the years. Always family.
When Alzheimer's began to creep into his life Mr. Shriver continued to enjoy having dinner with guests. It was a delight to visit with him and although there was some redundancy, he never forgot to insist that his most successful achievements were wrought from bringing smart people together to figure out a solution and that any talents he possessed were God-given. Always appreciative.
Now, after accomplishing so much during his 95 years, people from around the globe will assemble to remember this truly kind, giving and compassionate man. He attended Mass daily, and now he will be at peace - always. To me he will remain the person who was true to himself and his calling - always. And may those of us he touched strive to carry on his stellar example of caring - always.