'What I Saw in Her Was Sparkle': Colleagues Remember RFK Granddaughter's 'Passionate' Career

Maeve was “unpretentious and down to earth,” Hotez says, while Katz describes her as someone who was “excited” about her work and a strategic thinker who could “command a classroom.”

Hotez says he first met Maeve when she reached out to offer support from her family after her uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who holds anti-vaccination views, began to criticize Hotez for being outspoken about the importance of vaccinations while promoting his book, Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism, which is about his daughter.

“Maeve, as a representative of the family, would contact me and talk to me and say, ‘Look, we don’t support these views and we really appreciate what you’re doing to defend vaccines,’ ” Hotez recalls. “That gave me a lot of encouragement and support.”

In February 2019, Maeve co-moderated a discussion about preparing for future pandemics with guest Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease and a newfound household name due to his role on the federal government’s coronavirus response.

During their discussion, Fauci and Maeve each brought up the importance of clear, factual information when approaching outbreaks — at one point referencing the Kennedy granddaughter’s disagreement with her uncle about vaccinations.

“It seems like a communication issue,” Maeve told Fauci.

He nodded and said, “I just gave a half hour interview on C-SPAN this morning on the anti-vaccine movement and it had a call-in session, so you can imagine who was calling in.”

“My uncle?” she quipped back.

Katz tells PEOPLE Maeve was a sharp-witted character who was “quick to laugh” and even quicker to act.

“The last couple weeks, I was getting regular emails [from her] saying, ‘What can I do to help? Where can I fit in? How can I be an asset?’ ” Katz says, referencing Maeve’s efforts to connect Georgetown health experts with members of her grandfather’s nonprofit organization. “She was doing what she does best: bringing people together.”

Maeve’s cousin Tim Shriver, nephew of both former President John F. Kennedy and Maeve’s grandfather, tells PEOPLE, “She was smart as a whip, tough as nails and kind as a human being can be. The combination was mesmerizing.”

Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics, founded by his mother, got to know Maeve better than ever over the last decade as she began growing into a prominent human rights lawyer.

They worked together on public health issues surrounding intellectual disabilities.

“She could charm you with her generosity of spirit, amaze you with her intellect and then you just wanted to stand back with the force of her will,” Shriver says of Maeve. “It’s a combination that usually doesn’t exist.”

Hotez describes her as someone who had “big aspirations” and was an excellent leader.

“She was always sort of up and bright,” he says. “She’s somebody that was making a difference in the world and she was only 40. There’s no doubt she was destined for huge things.”

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