By Gianna Palmer
BEDFORD, New York (Reuters) - Mary Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who died in an apparent suicide earlier this week, was recalled Saturday as an "angel" who was ultimately overwhelmed by a lengthy fight with depression.
Those remembrances came as members of the Kennedy clan, including Robert F. Kennedy's widow Ethel and late President John F. Kennedy's daughter Caroline, gathered for her funeral here at St. Patrick's, a small Catholic church in this wealthy Westchester County hamlet about 50 miles north of New York City.
They were joined for the service on a sunny, warm spring morning by dozens of friends, including celebrities Chevy Chase, John McEnroe, Dan Aykroyd and Glenn Close, who was listed as a vocalist in the funeral program.
"Mary suffered from depression," Kerry Kennedy, her sister-in-law and longtime best friend, said to more than two dozen members of the press gathered outside the church before the ceremony.
"I just think about the story of Michael the Archangel, who had to battle the forces of evil, had to battle Satan who was trying to enter paradise," Kerry Kennedy said. "And that's what Mary did her whole life. She was battling, battling those demons and keeping them out of the paradise that was Mary."
"She was an angel," Kerry Kennedy continued. "She was an angel who was brought to us to live with us here on Earth. And I think that God just brought her back up to heaven and said: 'You don't have to fight for me anymore, you can be back where you're supposed to be.'"
Mary Kennedy, 52, was found hanging in a barn behind the family's home in Bedford, N.Y. on Wednesday, and the cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation by hanging. The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reported she had left a note.
Mary Kennedy had four children with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer and environmentalist and the son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of JFK. The couple filed for divorce in 2010, but it had not been finalized.
Her death is the latest traumatic episode for a family known nearly as well for the many untimely deaths of its members as for its prominent standing in U.S. society and politics.
John and Robert Kennedy were assassinated in the 1960s. JFK's son, John F. Kennedy Jr., died in a plane crash in 1999 along with his wife and sister-in-law. Two of Robert Kennedy's sons died unexpectedly: David Kennedy of a drug overdose in 1984 and Michael Kennedy in a 1999 skiing accident.
Mary Kennedy's body arrived Saturday in a light-colored wood casket and was carried into the church by pallbearers including her three sons, Conor, Aiden and William Finbar.
Her daughter Kyra was listed in the funeral program as reading Psalm 42. Robert Kennedy Jr. was listed as delivering the eulogy, and Larry David, the U.S. producer and writer who co-created the television series "Seinfeld," was listed as offering remembrances.
The private ceremony was closed to outsiders, although the event drew several area residents who said they had come to pay last respects.
Ingrid Chen, 45, from Bedford, said her son attends high school with Mary Kennedy's oldest son Conor and described the Kennedys as "a very pleasant, beautiful family."
"I hope her soul is at peace with God," Chen said.
(Writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Paul Simao)