Jean Kennedy Smith, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and the last surviving sibling of President John F. Kennedy, died Wednesday at the age of 92, her daughter Kym confirmed to The New York Times Thursday. Smith was the eighth of the nine children born to Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy but outlived the rest of her siblings, many of whom met a tragic end.
Older brother Joseph Kennedy Jr. was killed in action during World War II; sister Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy died in a 1948 plane crash; JFK was assassinated in 1963, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was killed in 1968. Sen. Edward Kennedy died of brain cancer in August 2009, the same month his sibling, Eunice Kennedy Shriver died.
In her own life, Smith stayed mostly out of the spotlight that her siblings found themselves in, marrying Kennedy's family financial adviser and future White House chief of staff Stephen Edward Smith in 1956. The two went on to have four children together before his death in 1990: Stephen Jr., William, Amanda and Kym.
Three years after her husband's death, she was appointed the ambassador to Ireland by President Bill Clinton. In this role, she played a significant part in the Northern Ireland peace process and was a key voice in persuading Clinton to grant a visa in 1994 to the chief of the Irish Republican Army-linked Sinn Fein party, Gerry Adams, called a terrorist by the British government. According to the Times, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said four years later that "it is not an understatement to say that if [Adams' visa] didn’t happen at the time, perhaps other events may not have fallen into place."
In 1998, Smith waded into controversy once again by taking communion in a Protestant church in Dublin, which was against the bishops' rulings in the Roman Catholic church. Her decision came as she supported Irish President Mary McAleese, a Catholic who had been criticized for taking part in a Protestant communion service.
"Religion, after all, is about bringing people together," Smith told The Irish Times. "We all have our own way of going to God." Smith would step down as ambassador in 1998 but would receive Irish citizenship for distinguished service to the nation. Even prior to her work in the ambassador role, Smith was dedicated to her work in the public eye, founding in 1974 Very Special Arts, an educational program supporting artists with disabilities in line with sister Eunice's creation of the Special Olympics.