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Wake planned Friday for Mary Richardson Kennedy

Associated Press Modified: May 18, 2012 at 2:47 am •  Published: May 18, 2012

BEDFORD, N.Y. (AP) — As someone who lived at the edge of the spotlight that shines on the Kennedys, Mary Richardson Kennedy had been there long enough to become a partner in their rituals of grief — she was there when the clan buried Michael Kennedy, killed in a New Year's Eve skiing accident in 1997, and John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in a plane crash in 1999.

And now, the gathering will be for her, the estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., who hanged herself Wednesday at the family's 10-acre estate in a New York City suburb.

A wake was planned for Friday at the family's mansion in Bedford, according to Ken Sunshine, a publicist working with the Kennedy family. Funeral services were planned for Saturday morning at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bedford, with burial to follow in Hyannisport, Mass., where the Kennedy family has a compound.

The Richardson side of the family said in its statement that it was planning a private memorial service in Manhattan.

Her death, at age 52, came as a shock to some friends and family, even though the past two years had been undeniably tough ones. The couple was going through a divorce, and Mary had been charged twice with driving while intoxicated in 2010.

"A lot of times I don't know how she made it through the day," Robert Kennedy Jr. told The New York Times. "She was in a lot of agony for a lot of her life."

But Victoria Michaelis, a friend since Mary's college days, said she hadn't seemed suicidal, or crippled by the alcohol problems that briefly landed her in the headlines two springs ago.

"She was definitely suffering, but she was very, very spiritual and a resolute Catholic," Michaelis said. "I'd say she was depressed the last two years since the divorce. But she would put that aside and ask you how you were. I saw her a couple of weeks ago, and she was fine."

Her death resonated, too, with a public that has watched tragedy march through the ranks of the Kennedy clan again and again.

"I think every family has its tragedies. But this is too much," said Kim O'Connell, who dropped off a bouquet of Calla lilies at the family's home in Bedford on Thursday morning. She had met Robert and Mary only a few times, while working at their health club, but felt a connection anyway. "I just thought she was just a lady. I woke up this morning, and I wanted to do something."

An architectural designer with New Jersey roots, Mary Kennedy met her estranged husband's sister, Kerry, in boarding school when they were still teenagers and had stayed close to the clan through the decades before marrying Robert in 1994.

Robert is the son of Robert F. Kennedy, the former U.S. attorney general who was slain in 1968 while running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the nephew of assassinated President John F. Kennedy and the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Mary was RFK Jr.'s second wife, and she entered the family in less-than-storybook circumstances.

When they married, she was already pregnant with their first child, and Kennedy was only weeks removed from the divorce of his first wife.

Yet the wedding had the usual Kennedy touch of romance and politics. The ceremony was held aboard an environmental research vessel on the Hudson River, which Robert had been fighting to protect as an attorney with the environmental group Riverkeeper.

The couple's fourth child — Robert's sixth overall — was born while he was serving a 30-day jail sentence for trespassing on U.S. Navy property to protest bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island Vieques.

"Mary married into the family. But, believe me, the Kennedys don't marry into your family, you marry into their family. So you're transformed when you marry into their family," said Laurence Leamer, author of the book "The Kennedy Women."

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