Mary Kennedy fondly remembered as families feud

Kerry Kennedy, sister-in-law of Mary Kennedy, holds a Kerry Kennedy, sister-in-law of Mary Kennedy, holds a press conference in front of Saint Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bedford. (May 18, 2012) Photo Credit: John Roca/Getty Images

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Turmoil continued to swirl around Mary Richardson Kennedy Friday on the eve of her funeral, as her family battled over her remains and details emerged about the woes that weighed on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s estranged wife before she committed suicide.

Two weeks before she died, Mary learned she was being sued for more than $32,000 by American Express, court papers show. On April 30, a Brooklyn process server visited the family's South Bedford Road home and delivered a copy of the lawsuit to Mary.

The suit filed in Westchester Supreme Court does not spell out how Mary Kennedy racked up $32,624 in debt but makes it clear that repeated attempts to collect had failed. Moreover, it appeared that her husband of 16 years was poised to get full custody of their four children as he moved to divorce her.

Mary's mounting problems fueled her struggles with depression and substance abuse, said friends and family, who gathered Friday night at her beloved Bedford home where she took her life Wednesday.

As helicopters hovered, a steady stream of black-clad mourners began arriving at the 11-acre estate on South Bedford Road at about 6 p.m., after state Supreme Court Judge Joan Lefkowitz released Mary's body.

Mary's brother, attorney Thomas Richardson, petitioned the court Thursday for custody of her remains. Friday, the judge ruled in favor of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., clearing the way for her body to be transported from the Westchester County Medical Examiner's office to the Clark Associates Funeral Home of Katonah. An autopsy showed that Mary, 52, hanged herself in a barn behind the red-brick mansion.

During a hastily arranged press conference shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, Kerry Kennedy stood in front of St. Patrick's Church where a funeral service will be held Saturday, and spoke warmly of the sister-in-law she described as "my best, best friend."

From the moment they met as 15-year-old classmates, Mary "spent every vacation with my family" recalled Kerry, noting that they remained inseparable through college. Mary was "absolutely the most beautiful, brilliant, wisest person in my life," Kerry said.

At the Putney boarding school in Vermont, there would be a line of high school classmates waiting outside of Mary's dorm room because "she was so good at thinking through deep, deep emotional issues," said Kerry. "It was like a beacon of light calling us to our better angels."

"She was so completely devoted" to her children and was "the most wonderful, committed mother," Kerry continued. "She was just an amazing, amazing woman, so full of love."

Kennedy ended her reflections by touching on Mary's problems. "She struggled, she struggled so hard and for so long with mental illness which so many Americans struggle with," Kerry recounted. "She fought that battle throughout her life. And she fought it with dignity and with love. And you know, in the end, the demons won....this world just wasn't made for a person that good."

Later at Mary's Bedford home, Douglas Kennedy, one of Robert Jr.'s younger brothers, said the family's priority is the children. "We're just trying to take care of Mary and Bobby's kids. That's all that anyone should be caring about."

The couple's children -- Conor Richardson, 18; Kyra LeMoyne, 17; William Finbar, 15; and Aiden Caohman Vieques, 11 -- were living with their father in nearby Katonah when they weren't away at boarding school.

As Douglas Kennedy drove off he said Mary "loved for everybody to be together, which is what we're doing tonight."

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