Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, a granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, along with her 8-year-old child, Gideon, were both reported missing after heading out on a boat ride in the Chesapeake Bay Thursday afternoon, April 2, and are presumed dead.
The Coast Guard had received word from Maryland State Police that two people were seen having trouble getting their canoe back to shore and then disappeared. On Friday, their identities were confirmed as McKean, 40, and her son.
According to Anne Arundel County Fire, a 911 call came in from the Columbia Beach area, where McKean and her son were seen canoeing on Thursday evening. On Friday, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources officials announced that McKean and Gideon were reported missing around 4:49 p.m. local time near Herring Bay in Shady Side. According to officials, the pair had paddled out to retrieve a ball and were unable to paddle back to shore.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, McKean’s mother and niece of President John F. Kennedy, said in a statement Friday evening: “With profound sadness, I share the news that the search for my beloved daughter Maeve and grandson Gideon has turned from rescue to recovery,” which means that her daughter and grandson are presumed dead. However, the search for both McKean and Gideon will continue on Saturday morning.
At around 7 p.m. an overturned canoe and a paddle were found near Deale, Maryland. A large search is currently underway in the area. As reported by CBS Baltimore, in addition to the Queen Anne Police Department, Arundel Police and Fire Departments, Maryland Natural Resource Police and Maryland State Police, the Air Station Atlantic City MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter aircrew, Coast Guard Station Annapolis 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew, an Air Station Elizabeth City C-130 Hercules aircrew and a Coast Guard Station Saint Inigoes boat crew are continuing the search Friday morning along with the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Angela McShan.
Here’s what you need to know about Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean:
1. Husband David McKean Described The Family’s Playful Afternoon Before His Wife & Child Disappeared
David wrote about his final day with his wife and eldest son on Facebook, as well as a beautiful tribute to both Maeve and Gideon. “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.”
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.
The Coast Guard reported that the person who called in saw the pair “struggling to return to shore in a canoe,” as it was a particularly windy day, with gusts reported up to 40 miles an hour on Thursday.
“The search that began yesterday afternoon went on throughout the night and continued all day today,” David wrote. “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.”
2. Maeve Kennedy McKean Was The Executive Director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiatives
The daughter of David Lee Townsend and former lieutenant governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and grandniece of President John F. Kennedy, McKean was destined to enter the world of politics. She worked as a human rights lawyer and health care activist.
After graduating from Boston College in 2001 with a B.A. in English, she studied at Georgetown University, where she earned a joint degree in law and international conflict resolution. McKean then joined the Peace Corps in Mozambique, which is located in southeast Africa. She returned stateside to help with her mother’s campaign for governor in 2002 before taking a job with Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein.
While President Barack Obama was in office, McKean served in the U.S. State Department’s Global AIDS program and advocated for human rights at the Department of Health and Human Services.
In memory of his wife, David wrote of her numerous career accomplishments and how she was an incredibly devoted mother and “the brightest light I have ever known.”
[She] was my everything. 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. 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.
3. Gideon Was Named After A Supreme Court Case
With both McKean and her husband working as passionate human rights lawyers, they decided to name their first child, who was born on June 27, 2011, after the landmark Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright. In 1963, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that under the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, states must provide an attorney to defendants in criminal cases if they cannot afford a lawyer on their own.
In addition to Gideon, they have a daughter, Gabriella, 7, who was born in 2013, and younger son, Toby, 2. David wrote of his son’s memory on Facebook, “Gideon was 8, but he may as well have been 38. He was deeply compassionate, declining to sing children’s songs if they contained a hint of animals or people being treated cruelly. 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.”
“It is impossible to sum up Gideon here,” his father added. “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.”
4. McKean Publicly Sparred Against Uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
In a Politico article published last year, McKean spoke out about the deadly consequences of her uncle publicly supporting the anti-vaccination movement. Kennedy Jr., who’s married to actress Cheryl Hines, received a ton of press for his campaign after actress Jessia Biel joined in his fight.
The column, which she co-wrote with Joseph P. Kennedy, a former member of Congress from Massachusetts and the chairman and president of Citizens Energy Corporation, and her mother, who served as chair of the Global Virus Network, asserts:
We love Bobby. He is one of the great champions of the environment. His work to clean up the Hudson River and his tireless advocacy against multinational organizations who have polluted our waterways and endangered families has positively affected the lives of countless Americans. We stand behind him in his ongoing fight to protect our environment. However, on vaccines he is wrong.”
And his and others’ work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences. The challenge for public health officials right now is that many people are more afraid of the vaccines than the diseases, because they’ve been lucky enough to have never seen the diseases and their devastating impact. But that’s not luck; it’s the result of concerted vaccination efforts over many years. We don’t need measles outbreaks to remind us of the value of vaccination.
5. Before Going Missing, McKean Championed Her Baby Sister Kerry, An ER Doctor Working Amid Coronavirus
Maeve Kennedy McKean has four sisters: Meaghan Anne Kennedy Townsend, who’s the oldest, and two younger siblings, Rose Katherine Kennedy Townsend and Kerry Sophia Kennedy Townsend, the latter of whom she applauded on Twitter for her work amid the coronavirus pandemic.
She tweeted, “My kid sister, Dr. @kerrymeltzer is a resident starting her two-week rotation in the Emergency Room at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital @nyphospital Like everyone who has a loved one on the frontlines of #COVID I am very proud.”