GREENWICH, Conn. -- Happy birthday to Greenwich's Ethel Skakel Kennedy!
Kennedy, who grew up in Greenwich and attended Greenwich Academy, turns 86 on Friday. The widow of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was born on April 11, 1928.
Ethel Skakel was born in Chicago to businessman George Skakel (1892–1955) and secretary Ann Brannack (1892–1955), who were killed when the private plane they were traveling in crashed near Union City, Okla. She was the Skakels' third daughter and sixth child. She had five older siblings, Georgeann, James, George Jr., Rushton, and Patricia, and one younger sister, Ann.
In September 1945, she entered Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (then located in Manhattan), where she was classmates with Jean Ann Kennedy.
Ethel first met Jean's brother, Bobby Kennedy, during a ski trip to Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec in December 1945. At the time, he was dating Ethel's elder sister, Patricia. After Kennedy and Patricia's relationship ended, he began dating Ethel.
She campaigned for his elder brother and future president John F. Kennedy in his 1946 campaign for U.S. Congress, and wrote her college thesis on his book "Why England Slept."
Robert and Ethel became engaged in February 1950, and were married on June 17, 1950, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenwich. Her wedding dress and bridal party gowns were created by New York City fashion designer Mamie Conti. As newlyweds, the couple moved to Charlottesville, Va., where they lived while Robert Kennedy finished his last year at the University of Virginia Law School. The couple eventually had 11 children, the last of whom was born after Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.
After her husband's death, Ethel Kennedy stated publicly she would never marry again. For a time, she was escorted to dinners, parties and the theater by singer and family friend Andy Williams. She continued to live at the family home, Hickory Hill, in McLean, Va., until December 2009, when it was sold for $8.25 million.
Kennedy has remained politically active over the years, most recently raising $6 million for then-Senator Barack Obama at a fundraising dinner during his successful campaign for president in 2008.