Shortly after it emerged late Friday that Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and McKean’s 8-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, were presumed dead following a Maryland canoe accident, McKean's husband offered a moving tribute to his wife and son on social media.
Maeve McKean is the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, the grandniece of former President John F. Kennedy, and daughter of former Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert F. Kennedy's eldest child.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend told USA TODAY in a statement that a mission to rescue the two turned from rescue to "recovery" by the end of Friday. "Our hearts are crushed, yet we shall try to summon the grace of God and what strength we have to honor the hope, energy and passion that Maeve and Gideon set forth into the world," she said.
Later Friday night, the U.S. Coast Guard announced the search for the missing canoers would be suspended. The 26-hour search covered more than 3,600 square miles of air, sea and land.
"She was my everything," McKean's Washington human rights lawyer David McKean, said while memorializing his wife and son on Facebook Friday evening. In a lengthy post, he first explained what he knew of the accident.
Rescue mission called off: Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter and her son are presumed dead after a canoeing accident
"I am writing here to address the countless people who have loved my wife Maeve and my son Gideon. As many of you have seen, they went missing in the Chesapeake Bay yesterday afternoon," wrote David McKean on Facebook.
He continued: "Despite heroic efforts by the Coast Guard and many state and local authorities, the decision has now been made to suspend the active rescue effort. The search that began yesterday afternoon went on throughout the night and continued all day today. It is now dark again. It has been more than 24 hours, and the chances they have survived are impossibly small. It is clear that Maeve and Gideon have passed away. The search for their recovery will continue, and I hope that that will be successful."
David McKean said the coronavirus had prompted the couple to seek more space for their three kids to play.
"We were self-quarantining in an empty house owned by Maeve’s mother Kathleen on the Chesapeake Bay, hoping to give our kids more space than we have at home in DC to run around," he wrote. "Gideon and Maeve were playing kickball by the small, shallow cove behind the house, and one of them kicked the ball into the water. The cove is protected, with much calmer wind and water than in the greater Chesapeake. They got into a canoe, intending simply to retrieve the ball, and somehow got pushed by wind or tide into the open bay. About 30 minutes later they were spotted by an onlooker from land, who saw them far out from shore, and called the police. After that last sighting, they were not seen again. The Coast Guard recovered their canoe, which was capsized and miles away, at approximately 6:30 yesterday evening."
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David McKean expanded his post to include a moving tribute to his wife, who was the executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative. Together they shared Gideon, 8, along with daughter Gabriella, 7, and son Toby, 2.
"Maeve turned 40 in November, and she was my everything," he wrote. "She was my best friend and my soulmate. I have already thought many times over today that I need to remember to tell Maeve about something that’s happening. I am terrified by the idea that this will fade over time. You could hear Maeve’s laugh a block away—and she laughed a lot. She was magical—with endless energy that she would put toward inventing games for our children, taking on another project at work or in our community, and spending time with our friends.
"There were weeks when we had people over to our house so often that our kids would be confused when we were just having dinner as a family. Maeve once spent the hours before New Year’s Eve organizing a 40-person party at our house, complete with a face painter, during a cross country flight home, while also reading to one of our kids in her lap. She once landed in DC after a 30-hour trip home from Asia, and then took a cab straight to the pool to play with our kids. She did the Peace Corps, she ran the Boston Marathon, she knew how rub Gabriella’s legs when they cramped, and being in her presence somehow allowed you to be a better version of yourself. She was the brightest light I have ever known."
David McKean continued by painting a vivid portrait of his son, Gideon who "was 8, but he may as well have been 38," he wrote. "He was deeply compassionate, declining to sing children’s songs if they contained a hint of animals or people being treated cruelly. He hated if I accidently let a bad word slip. He spent hours upstairs reading, learning everything he could about sports, and trying to decipher the mysteries of the stock market. But he was also incredibly social, athletic, and courageous. For his school picture, he gathered a couple of his many friends to be in the shot with him.
"He played every sport he could, complaining to me that even though he was often playing six days a week, there was still that seventh day, and why hadn’t I signed him up for something else. And he was brave, leading his friends in games, standing up to people who he thought were wrong (including his parents), and relishing opportunities to go on adventures with friends, even those he’d just met. It is impossible to sum up Gideon here. I am heartbroken to even have to try. I used to marvel at him as a toddler and worry that he was too perfect to exist in this world. It seems to me now that he was."
He also shared that their 7-year-old Gabriella "is heartbroken, but she amazes me with her maturity and grace. Toby is two-and-a-half, so he’s still his usual magical and goofy self. I know soon he will start to ask for Maeve and Gideon. It breaks my heart that he will not get to have them as a mother and brother."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Read husband's memorial of Kennedy descendant and their 8-year-old son