The founder of the Peace Corps, Robert Sargent Shriver Jr , a former vice-president candidate and brother-in-law of John F Kennedy,  died on Tuesday in a Bethesda hospital at the age of 95.

Shivers was admitted to Suburban Hospital on January 16, he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2003.

A family spokesperson said he died surrounded by those he loves, among them his five children, Robert, Maria, Tim, Mark and Anthony and a number of his 19 grandchildren.

His late wife was Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of President John F. Kennedy and the founder of the Special Olympics. She passed away on August 11 2009, at the age of 88.

A native of Maryland, Shriver was a devout Catholic who attended daily Mass and carried a well-worn rosary with him.

President Barack Obama described Shriver, "one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation."

"Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service," Obama said in a statement.

"Sarge has been a presence in our lives for decades," President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.

"We went into public service because of the example of leaders like Sarge, who translated President Kennedy's call to service into action," they added.

Born in 1915, Shriver was the son of a stockbroker who lost most of his money in the Wall Street crash of 1929.

After being awarded a scholarship to Yale, he went onto  study law there.  He served in the Navy during the World War II, before returning home to become an assistant editor at Newsweek magazine, soon after he met his future wife, Eunice Kennedy. They were married in St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1953.

Speaking after his father’s death Anthony Kennedy Shriver said his father was "with my mom now," and described his parents marriage as a great love story.

His daughter Maria Shriver, who is married to  Arnold Schwarzenegger, wrote a children’s book entitled “What’s happening to Grandpa?”, to help children understand the disease that affected their family. She was also the executive producer of HBO documentary based on the book which won an Emmy.