A day after Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s estranged wife, Mary, committed suicide, she was remembered as a loving and generous woman while her family planned her funeral for Saturday in Bedford.

"Mary was just a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girl in every way," said Bedford real estate agent Muffin Dowdle, who noted that the two had been friends for 25 years.

From here on out, "Mary is going to watch over the children ... she's an angel now," she said, adding that her 52-year-old friend was "very generous" with community organizations and was a "kind, loving girl" who was "willing to help you if you needed help at any time."

A decade ago, Dowdle introduced Mary Kennedy to the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Westchester, where they worked through the years together on the Mount Kisco-based organization's annual fundraising dinner.

In a gesture of support, Mary hosted the group's April 2010 Youth of the Year award celebration in the family's newly renovated Bedford home, which showcased eco-friendly design and was decorated in recycled materials.

A week before the event, the house looked far from ready, said Brian Skanes, the club's executive director. During one of their several planning meetings at the mansion, he remembered how happy she seemed to be sitting in the middle of the chaos while "talking all the time" about her husband.

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"There were workers coming through, helpers, dogs and cats," he recalled. "It was a very lively, free-flowing conversation" leading up to what became a "wonderful" event in which Robert Kennedy Jr. graciously showed everyone around the completed house filled with "memorabilia from RFK and JFK."

Robert Kennedy Jr., 58, is the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy and the son of former Sen. Robert Kennedy. Barely a month after that lovely evening, he filed for divorce.

The Westchester County medical examiner's office said Thursday that Mary Kennedy died of "asphyxiation due to hanging." Arrangements were being made for a private wake at the family's mansion in Bedford Friday, according to a Kennedy family publicist, with Clark Associates Funeral Home of Katonah handling the preparations. Msgr. George P. Thompson will hold a funeral Mass at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bedford at 10 a.m. Saturday, with burial to follow in Hyannisport, Mass., where the Kennedy family has a compound.

Mary Kennedy's side of the family said in a statement that it was planning a private memorial service in Manhattan.

On Wednesday, Mary Kennedy's body was found about 1:30 p.m. in a barn on the wooded, 11-acre estate on South Bedford Road. It was not made clear who discovered her body.

Thursday afternoon, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his family gathered at his estate Four Chimneys, a little more than a mile from where his wife killed herself. Recently, the two youngest children had been living with their father in the white-columned, two-story mansion. The couple's two older ones are away attending boarding school.

Eight cars were parked at the top of the long, gravel driveway as family and friends arrived. Children's voices could be heard from inside the home on the sprawling horse farm, trimmed by a 3-foot-high stone wall.

A family member declined to comment as she stood in the front doorway. On the other side of the house, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. paced back and forth on the veranda as he talked on the phone.

Meanwhile, mourners also stopped by the house where Mary Kennedy had lived. Kim O'Connell, who worked at Saw Mill Club, came with a bouquet of lilies.

She recalled how Mary Kennedy took yoga classes at the fitness club twice a week and that Kennedy's husband occasionally would come in separately with their children. But she hadn't seen Mary Kennedy in the club for at least two years.

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"I think she was just worried about everything," said O'Connell, 59, of Bedford Hills.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed for divorce from Mary Kennedy in 2010. Their four children are Conor Richardson, 18; Kyra LeMoyne, 17, William Finbar, 15; and Aiden Caohman Vieques, 11.

Mary Kennedy had battled substance abuse in recent years and was involved in a custody fight with her husband, sources said.

In May 2010, police were called to the couple's freshly renovated green home for a reported domestic dispute involving their children.

That month, Robert Kennedy Jr. filed for divorce, and three days later Mary Kennedy was arrested by Bedford police and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. She pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in June 2010 and was ordered to undergo alcohol treatment. Her license was suspended for 90 days.

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Later that year, she was charged with driving under the influence of prescription medicine. That case was dismissed in July 2011 when a judge said the evidence showed that she didn't know the medicine she had taken would impair her ability to drive.

Mary Kennedy was Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s second wife. He married Emily Ruth Black, a law school classmate, in 1982 and had two children with her: Robert F. III, now 28, and Kathleen Alexandra, now 24. They divorced on March 25, 1994, and he wed Mary Richardson on April 15 of that year aboard a research boat on the Hudson River.

Mary Kennedy had known the Kennedys for years through her friendship with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s sister, Kerry, whom she met at boarding school. She had been Kerry Kennedy's maid of honor at her wedding in 1990.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an attorney, is a staunch environmentalist who has garnered national attention for leading clean-water advocate Hudson Riverkeeper's efforts to restore the Hudson River.

The Harvard grad worked briefly as a New York City prosecutor before writing several books, including the 2004 bestseller "Crimes Against Nature."

For the past year, he has been romantically linked to actress Cheryl Hines, who is best known for her role as Larry David's wife in the TV show "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

She regularly has sent her fans tweets with photos of them attending Kennedy's events.

Hines is currently starring as suburban trophy wife Dallas Royce on the ABC show "Suburgatory." She has been tweeting recently about being on location for "Pasadena."

With The Associated Press