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Marylanders remember Sargent Shriver

Peace Corps founder Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., who died today at age 95, was born in Westminster and remained a memorable presence in Maryland throughout his life. State elected leaders on Tuesday shared stories about him and praised his legacy, which also includes work on school integration, poverty and the Special Olympics.

In the early 1970s, while Shriver was serving as ambassador to France, supporters led a "come home, Sarge" campaign to recruit him to run for governor. Instead, in 1972, he stepped in as Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern's candidate for vice president.

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Shriver and wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver would later become a frequent visitors to Annapolis when their son, Mark K. Shriver, was elected a Montgomery County delegate in 1994, serving two terms. Niece Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was Maryland's lieutenant governor from 1995 to 2003 and ran for governor in 2002.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, a fellow Montgomery delegate and seatmate of Mark Shriver's, said that in addition to being a national figure, Sargent Shriver was "a great Marylander, and we're proud him in our state."

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Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Del. Sheila Hixson share their memories after the jump.Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, in an interview:

Noting the August 2009 deaths of her uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Townsend said the passing of Sargent Shriver marks "the end of an amazing generation."

She described her uncle as the personification of the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

"He had a great belief that you can get things done, that if you challenge people, they will respond," she said.

As an uncle, she said, he was "always extremely supportive. He was always right there, wanting to talk with you, to discuss anything with you. He wanted to know what we were thinking, what was going on inside."

She remembered her uncle and aunt inviting people over for dinner to discuss ideas. His deep Catholicism, she said, was at the base of many of those conversations and "certainly influenced his devotion to the Peace Corps and the war on poverty."

She said her cousins, including Mark Shriver and former California first lady Maria Shriver, are a testament to the way Sargent and Eunice raised them: They're all engaged in public service and "have done extraordinary work."

"What I also find terrific about my cousins is how close they all are as a family and how supportive and loving they have been to each other and to their parents," she said.

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Gov. Martin O'Malley, in a statement:

"As a Maryland native, Sargent Shriver embodied the ideals we share as One Maryland -- our belief in the dignity of every individual and in our own responsibility to advance the greater good. ... Sargent Shriver's overwhelming optimism and energy brightened our nation in its darkest times and served to defend the very ideals our country was built upon."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, in an interview:

"He had a great personality, a great wit," said Miller, who came to know Shriver during his 1972 vice-presidential run. "He was a great statesman who added a lot of strength to the Kennedy family."

Miller added that Shriver was "a role model for the whole world in terms of giving back."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, in an interview:

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Busch, a legislator since 1987 who served with Mark Shriver, remembered the elder Shriver as "first and foremost a family man, dedicated to the country and serving people."

Sargent Shriver "cared about individuals and people, people who did not have a voice," Busch said. He also noted that Sargent and Eunice both "had a great sense of humor. They laughed with you and at themselves. You could kid with them, tease them. They were a great couple to be around."

Comptroller Peter Franchot, in an interview:

"He's one of the very few people I've met in my life that had such a big impact on our country," Franchot said. Both he and Eunice "left the country a better place."

"I'll remember him for his joyful demeanor. I love the tone that he struck in public life, which I think is sorely lacking these days. It was rich, substantive."

Del. Sheila Hixson, in an interview:

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Hixson, who served with Mark Shriver as a Montgomery County delegate, remembered when Sargent Shriver was ambassador to France and some Democrats launched a "come home, Sarge" campaign to recruit him for a gubernatorial race.

Later she was working at the Democratic National Committee when Shriver was on the vice presidential ticket. "He was a gentleman and very classy," she said.

"In this time now when civility seems to be losing in the political world we need more people like him who can cross lines and cross bridges," she said.


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