Robert V."Bobby" Shriver Jr., whose lifelong struggle with Down syndrome and determination to live a normal life was an inspiration to all who knew him, died Friday of a pulmonary embolism at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.
He was 30 and lived in Timonium.
"Bobby was a remarkable young man, and he enjoyed coming to school each day and was always prepared to learn. He also looked forward each day to seeing his friends, and he had lots of friends," said Edmund K. Bennett, who for the last 15 years has been president of Ridge Ruxton School, a Baltimore County public school in Towson for young people ages 3 to 21 with special needs.
"He participated in our academic and vocational programs and was an outstanding student," said Mr. Bennett. "He was so inspiring, and he could do so many things and had so many successes."
The son of Robert V. Shriver Sr., the longtime Boys' Latin School varsity lacrosse coach who retired this month, and the former Jasmine Mehrizi, who served for a decade with the Achievement Initiative for Maryland Minority Students, Robert Van Horn Shriver Jr. was born in Baltimore and raised in Timonium.
He was a year old when he was diagnosed with Down syndrome and was 2 years old when he entered the child care program at Ridge Ruxton School.
In 1996, Mr. Shriver and another boy were featured on ABC's "Turning Point," a nationally televised program about inclusion and mainstreaming disabled students that followed the two students for a year.
"Bobby was the student who was not mainstreamed into a regular school," his father said.
When their son was 6, educators "were not allowing children like my son into regular schools," Mrs. Shriver told The Baltimore Sun in a 2003 article, and her civil rights complaint as part of a group of parents prompted Baltimore County's move toward the instruction of special-needs children in mainstream schools.
"Although the 1996 documentary gained national attention, only those closest to the family were aware of the nightmarish, often life-threatening episodes that Bobby Jr. suffered between ages 5 and 13 until his respiratory troubles were brought under control," reported The Sun in a 2003 article. "There were countless trips to the hospital and sleepless nights at the bedside after he had stopped breathing."
"You would think that a man that is so demanding of perfection in the kids he coaches, he would be perhaps impatient with a child like little Bobby at home," Mrs. Shriver said of her husband in the 2003 interview. "But he's so patient with little Bobby, sometimes it makes you want to cry."
Mr. Shriver "was always fighting back from the brink," his father said recently. "Bobby was a gift."
Mr. Shriver remained at the school until graduating in 2006, when he went to work in the vocational day program at Chimes Inc. in Mount Washington.
"He would pack boxes or make boxes and did other jobs," said his father.
"Bobby was a remarkable and outstanding guy with such a wonderful personality. I had him for six years in the early 1990s, and he always made my day," said Erin M. Kilcullen, a longtime Ridge Ruxton teacher.
"He had a wonderful smile and loved working hard and loved academics," said Ms. Kilcullen. "He liked reading our daily schedule before the class and was just delightful. He loved reading and math."
She said Mr. Shriver especially enjoyed field trips to malls, stores and McDonald's, where students learned how to purchase and pay for things, and operating a food bank at school.
"All the students would do this so they could learn to be functional adults," said Ms. Kilcullen. "They also had a food bank, and this taught them the importance of giving back to the community."
Mrs. Shriver's son's struggle with Down syndrome resulted in years of activism. She volunteered and served as president of the PTA on and off for 15 years. She was chair of the PTA Council of Baltimore County from 1996 to 2000. She chaired Baltimore County's Citizens' Advisory Committee for Special Education, and was appointed by Nancy S. Grasmick, former state superintendent of schools, to the Achievement Initiative for Maryland Minority Students, a position she held from 2000 to 2010.
Mr. Shriver enjoyed attending Camp Greentop, a camping and therapeutic recreation program in Catoctin National Park founded in 1937 by the League for People with Disabilities. He had been going to the camp since 2000.
The Morning Sun
Mr. Shriver also loved movies and music.
"When it came to music, Bobby liked it the louder the better," said family friend John L. Daue, who retired as a vice president of Winner Distributing Co. "When you watched his favorite movies with him, he'd say the lines before the actors did. It was just incredible."
Mr. Daue, who lives in Towson, recalled that spending time with Mr. Shriver was always "very special."
"He was a wonderful young man who gave so much joy to many, and his love was unconditional," said Mr. Daue. "He just made you happy when you were with him. He brought more joy to others than we were ever able to convey to him."
Funeral services will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Roman Catholic Shrine of the Sacred Heart, 5800 Smith Ave., Mount Washington.
In addition to his parents, Mr. Shriver is survived by his brother, David J. Shriver of State College, Pa.; his maternal grandmother, Betty Mehrizi of St. Michaels; and aunts, uncles and cousins.