California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he and his wife, Maria, are "immensely saddened" by the death of her "Uncle Teddy."
In a statement issued hours after the Massachusetts Democrat succumbed to brain cancer, the pair said he "was the rock of our family."
Kennedy's death came just two weeks after that of Maria Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy, one of the senator's siblings. He had attended her wake but was noticeably absent from her funeral, even though it was held near his Cape Cod home.
The governor said he has "personally benefited and grown" from Kennedy's experience and advice.
He also says the senator "taught us all that public service isn't a hobby or even an occupation, but a way of life."