The Last Kennedy: Jean Kennedy Smith

Ted Kennedy's death leaves one living child born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy.

August 26, 2009, 6:33 PM

Aug. 26, 2009— -- And then there was one.

The death of Edward Kennedy late Tuesday after a yearlong struggle with brain cancer, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died two weeks earlier after suffering a series of strokes in recent years, leaves just one remaining child born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy: Jean Kennedy Smith.

The 81-year-old former ambassador to Ireland has long maintained a much lower profile than some other members of the extended Kennedy family. She skipped the funeral mass for her sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver to stay with her ailing brother, and has been seen in public very little in recent years.

See photos of who's who in the Kennedy family.

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Born in 1928 in Brookline, Mass., Jean Ann Kennedy was the eighth child and youngest daughter of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. She was thought to be the shyest and most-guarded of the Kennedy children. Her mother famously said of her youngest daughter, "She was born so late, that she only was able to enjoy the tragedies, and not the triumphs."

Kennedy Smith attended Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., where she became friends with two future sisters-in-law: Ethel Skakel, who married the late Robert F. Kennedy in 1950, and Joan Bennett, who married Ted Kennedy in 1958.

In 1956, Jean Kennedy married Stephen E. Smith, an executive in a transportation company founded by his grandfather. Smith died of cancer in 1990.

The couple had four children, yet only one managed to land in the tabloids. William Kennedy Smith was accused of rape in 1991 but the well-publicized trial ended in his acquittal. Today, William Kennedy Smith is a doctor whose work focuses on landmines and the rehabilitation of people disabled by them.

Jean Kennedy Smith's first experience in national politics came during John F. Kennedy's run for the White House in 1960, when she traveled the country campaigning for her older brother.

Kennedy Smith became a political figure in her own right three decades later, when President Clinton nominated her to be U.S. ambassador to Ireland in 1993.

Kennedy Dynasty Members Still Making a Mark

She served in that post until 1998 and was responsible for the Clinton administration decision to grant a visa to Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, to visit the United States in 1994.

Last year, in a story she wrote for the Huffington Post entitled "What I Learned About American Politics From Watching the Irish Peace Process," Kennedy Smith described how she "constantly reached out across the sectarian divide to Catholic and Protestant alike, and appealed to their stake in a common peace and the better angels of this nature."

Today, Kennedy Smith is still a member of the board of trustees of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, which provides grants to promote awareness and advocacy in the field of mental retardation. She has also served on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Though the last of Joe and Rose's children, Kennedy Smith is not the only Kennedy still making a mark.

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, John and Jacqueline Kennedy's surviving child, is a benefactor to New York City public schools.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is an environmental attorney and head of an alliance dedicated to protecting rivers, bays and lakes.

Rory Kennedy, Robert's youngest, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker focusing on social issues like AIDS and rural poverty.

Kerry Kennedy, Robert's seventh child, is the founder of the human rights organization Speak Truth to Power, which honors authors and journalists who stand up to oppression.

Joseph P. Kennedy II, former congressman from Massachusetts, is the founder of a nonprofit organization that provides discount heating oil to poor families. And Robert Sargent Shriver III, eldest son of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is an attorney and city council member in Santa Monica.

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