Family and others carry the casket holding Mary Richardson Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to a hearse after a service at St. Patrick’s Church in Bedford, N.Y., on Saturday.
BEDFORD, N.Y. — Mary Richardson Kennedy had been close to the Kennedys for much of her life, as a teenage friendship led to a marriage into one of America’s most famous families.
But her death stirred tension between her relatives and the Kennedys, as they faced off in court over custody of her body and as they arranged separate memorial services for the 52-year-old architect, environmentalist and estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The court dispute came hours before a wake at the suburban New York estate where she hanged herself Wednesday.
The Kennedys planned a funeral Saturday morning at a Roman Catholic church in her suburban New York hometown, followed by burial later in the day near the family’s seaside compound in Hyannisport, Mass. Meanwhile, her siblings announced that they were planning a memorial service in Manhattan, though they didn’t say when.
But as mourners gathered at the brick mansion in Bedford for her wake Friday evening, one of her brothers-in-law sounded a note of unity.
“She loved everyone and she doesn’t want fighting,” Douglas Kennedy said. “... She loved for everyone to be together, which is what we’re trying to do.”
Earlier in the day, Robert Kennedy declined to speak about the legal dispute after emerging from a closed court session in White Plains, saying only, “It’s all done.” Lawyers for Mary Kennedy’s siblings also declined to comment or didn’t return phone calls.
One of Mary’s brothers, Thomas Richardson, filed legal papers in White Plains on Thursday listing Robert Kennedy as the defendant. The medical examiner’s office in Westchester County was told there were court proceedings related to custody of Mary Kennedy’s body and waited for a court order before releasing it to a funeral home in Bedford, said county spokeswoman Donna Greene.
A judge sealed details of the legal dispute, which came on the day the Kennedys had announced their memorial plans for Mary, including the wake Friday evening.
Relatives, friends including “Curb Your Enthusiasm” creator-star Larry David and “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King, and other mourners — so many that some had to park on nearby side streets — converged to pay their respects. Two police cars were stationed at end of the long driveway, keeping reporters at a distance.
“Everyone loved her. She was part of our family,” Douglas Kennedy said as he left the gathering. “She was the most organized, fun-loving person.”
Mary had known the Kennedy family for decades, dating back to a teenage friendship with one of Robert’s sisters, Kerry Kennedy. Mary and Robert married in 1994.
But they had been going through divorce proceedings since 2010, and Mary grappled for years with depression and alcohol.
“She struggled so hard, for so long, with mental illness, which so many Americans suffer with,” Kerry Kennedy said in brief remarks to reporters Friday outside the church where the funeral was planned. “She fought with dignity, and in the end, the demons won.”
Mary and Robert, the son of assassinated U.S. senator and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had been living in separate homes. They had four children together.
“We’re trying to take care of Bobby and Mary’s kids. That’s all that anyone should be caring about,” Douglas Kennedy said.
Records in the couple’s divorce case are sealed, but the public docket sheet showed that Robert Kennedy’s lawyers had sought a contempt order in the case last summer, indicating a dispute between the two sides.
American Express also sued Mary Kennedy in April, claiming she owed $32,624 in unpaid bills. Her lawyers didn’t respond to inquiries about that lawsuit.MORE IN Vermont News
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