Those at the wake included Oprah Winfrey and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, the Boston Herald reported. Eileen Ryan of Needham, Mass., also came to Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville on Cape Cod with her daughter, Bridget, 11.
"I think she made God's work her own. She helped people who would otherwise have no voice," Ryan said.
A member of the most famous U.S. political dynasty and wife of Sargent Shriver, who served as the first director of the Peace Corps and was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1972.
Eunice Shriver devoted her energy to helping the disabled. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., her nephew, described her as "multi-faceted" and deeply religious. He said she understood wisdom comes from "knowledge of God's will."
She also had no vanity, he said.
"She never did her hair ... and nobody noticed because of the chaos she brought with her," he said. "She was in constant motion."
A funeral mass was scheduled for Friday at St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in Hyannis, the family said. While restricted to family and invited guests, the mass will be broadcast live at www.eunicekennedyshriver.org.