Mary Richardson Kennedy

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Mary Richardson Kennedy
Mary Kathleen Richardson

(1959-10-04)October 4, 1959
DiedMay 16, 2012(2012-05-16) (aged 52)
EducationThe Putney School
Rhode Island School of Design
Brown University
  • Interior designer
  • architect
  • philanthropist
(m. 1994; sep. 2010)
Children4; including Kyra Kennedy
FamilyKennedy (by marriage)

Mary Richardson Kennedy (born Mary Kathleen Richardson; October 4, 1959 – May 16, 2012) was an American interior designer, architect, and philanthropist. She was a proponent of green building and was a co-founder of the Food Allergy Initiative, the largest fund for food allergy research in the United States. Her 2010 legal separation from her husband, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was highly publicized. Her subsequent suicide in 2012 also received national media attention.

Early life[edit]

Mary Kathleen Richardson was born on October 4, 1959, and was raised in Bayonne, New Jersey. Her father, John F. Richardson, was an attorney and a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, who died when she was 12 years old.[1] Richardson's mother was Nancy Higgins, a public school English teacher.[1][2] Richardson had four sisters and two brothers.[2]

She attended The Putney School, where she became friends and roommates with Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel Kennedy. She later roomed with Kerry Kennedy in college and served as her maid of honor at her wedding in 1990 to Andrew Cuomo.[3][1]


Richardson attended Brown University and studied architectural design at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).[4]

Her close friend Kerry Kennedy stated that Mary spent a semester working for the artist Andy Warhol in 1980. While Edward Kennedy was running for president, Mary Richardson, then age 20, had raised donations of artwork from Warhol and other prominent artists in his network, including Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, and Schnabel.[4]


After studying architecture at RISD, Richardson lived in SoHo, Manhattan, in the 1980s, and was active in the bohemian culture.[5]

In 1993, Richardson worked for the firm Parrish Hadley Design as an architectural designer.[1] She was involved in the renovation of the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, the official residence of the Vice President of the United States.[6] Her work involved green building practices and was certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.[7] Following flood damage to her home in 2003, Richardson oversaw a massive salvage job and green rebuild project known as the Kennedy Green House Project.[7]

In 1998, she co-founded the Food Allergy Initiative, the largest private fund for food allergy research in the United States.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Richardson married Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the brother of Kerry Kennedy, on April 15, 1994, aboard a research vessel on the Hudson River. They had four children: Conor Richardson Kennedy, Kyra LeMoyne Kennedy, William Finbar Kennedy, and Aidan Caohman Vieques Kennedy.[8]

On May 12, 2010, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. filed for divorce from Richardson. Three days later, she was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.[1] She reportedly struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse.[9] A court ordered that full temporary custody of her children be granted to her estranged husband.[10]


On May 16, 2012, Richardson was found dead at her home in Bedford, New York.[11][12] Her death was ruled as a suicide by hanging.[13] An autopsy report revealed that she had antidepressants in her blood system.[14] Her funeral, organized by the Kennedy family, was held at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Bedford, New York.[15][16] On May 21, 2012, a memorial service organized by the Richardson family was held at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan.[17] A legal battle between her husband and her brother, Thomas W. Richardson, ensued over which family should have control over her remains.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e Collins, Nancy (May 16, 2013). "New Questions Arise About Mary Richardson Kennedy's Suicide". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "John F. Richardson, Taught at Stevens". The New York Times. December 8, 1971. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Curtis, Wayne (March 9, 2019). "Why Aren't There More Classic Irish Whiskey Cocktails?". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Kennedy, Kerry (May 22, 2012). "Ode to My Best Friend -- Mary Richardson Kennedy". Huff Post. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  5. ^ Leamer, Laurence (June 11, 2012). "The Last Days of Mary Kennedy". Newsweek. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Mary Kennedy: 'Green' designer, wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr". CNN. June 12, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Hickman, Matt (May 18, 2012). "Mary Richardson Kennedy leaves legacy of green design". MNN - Mother Nature Network. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  8. ^ "Mary Kennedy's death still puzzles friends". USA Today. May 13, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  9. ^ "Mary Richardson Kennedy, Stepmonster?". Psychology Today. June 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  10. ^ Leamer, Laurence (June 11, 2012). "Behind Mary Kennedy's Long Meltdown". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  11. ^ Flegenheimer, Matt; Rashbaum, William K. (May 17, 2012). "Mary Kennedy, Estranged Wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Is Found Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  12. ^ Ed Payne (May 17, 2012). "Mary Kennedy's family blasts stories on her death". CNN. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  13. ^ "What Drove Her to Suicide? Mary Kennedy: 1959-2012". People. 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  14. ^ "Antidepressants in RFK Jr. wife's system". July 6, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  15. ^ Mongelli, Lorena (May 20, 2012). "RFK Jr. rejects blame during eulogy at wife Mary Richardson Kennedy's funeral". New York Post. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  16. ^ "Mary Richardson Kennedy's funeral". CBS News. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  17. ^ a b Leland, John (May 22, 2012). "3rd Ceremony Held for Wife of Robert Kennedy Jr". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2019.