Eunice Kennedy Shriver died Monday night. She was the sister of the Kennedy brothers, John, Robert, and Ted. Wife of Sargent Shriver, the first head of the Peace Corps and the vice presidential candidate on the ill-fated McGovern ticket in 1972. Founder of the Special Olympics. Mother of Maria. And she and I had lunch and spent the day together thirty-three years ago this month.
Well, it wasn’t exactly just Eunice and me. Back then, I was spending part of my summer working in beautiful Williamstown, Massachusetts, way up in the northwest corner of the state, up in the Berkshire Mountains. I’d gone to Williams College and was working with James MacGregor Burns, a former professor of mine. He’d won a couple of Pulitzers for his books on FDR and was the real-life character that the younger professor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was based on. He was also a friend of the Kennedy family.
When I say I was working with Burns, what I meant was that I was taking the summer off from grad school at Harvard and was working on his house—fixing the outside entrance to his cellar, repairing his chimney and fireplace, but mostly keeping my friend Peter, his stepson who’d dropped out of a succession of schools, company. I was studying political science and Burns delighted in presiding over lunches at his gorgeous house, overlooking the valley down where the New England college town could be seen, quizzing us on some aspect of history trivia. Another Williams student, a young Michael Beschloss, would come up every now and then to kiss up to the great man, and Peter