I always sleep with the news on so if a major event occurs during the night I’ll know about it right away. Around 2am I awoke to terrible news: Ted Kennedy had passed away. The last surviving brother from Camelot was gone.
Ted Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass. late last night at the age of 77. The US Senate was the youngest and last surviving brother of the political dynasty heralded as a modern-day Camelot. “We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives,” the family said in a statement released early this morning. “He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.”
President Barack Obama praised Sen. Edward Kennedy as the guardian of his family and defender of the American dream. Obama said that while people knew Kennedy’s time was short, “we’ve awaited it with no small amount of dread.” He noted an outpouring of affection for the venerable Massachusetts Democrat, calling him a “singular figure in American history” who touched many lives.
Born Edward Moore Kennedy in Boston on Feb. 22, 1932, Teddy was the youngest of Joseph and Rose Kennedy’s nine children. In addition to John and Robert’s assassinations, Kennedy’s eldest brother Joe Jr. was killed in World War II, leaving him the sole male heir to the Kennedy legacy. Kennedy narrowly escaped death in a 1964 plane crash that left him with a broken back and other injuries that plagued him for the rest of his life.
During his eight terms in the Senate representing Massachusetts, Kennedy rose to become one of the Democratic Party’s most powerful. The mystique of being a Kennedy just added to the package. “I’ve been fortunate in my life to grow up in an extraordinary family and to have a front-row seat at many key events in our nation’s history,” he said late last year.
With the assassination of his beloved older brothers, President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and New York Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968, Ted was immediately thrust into the limelight of the powerful political family. He worked hard, but also liked to play hard and his penchant for partying followed him. Rumors of heavy drinking plagued the heir apparent, but his actions from a car accident in 1969 tarnished his image and put to rest any chance of following in his brothers footsteps to the White House.
Ted Kennedy was involved in a car crash at Chappaquiddick in 1969 after attending a party on Martha’s Vineyard which left Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, dead and Kennedy fleeing the scene. Kopechne, a former campaign worker for Robert Kennedy, drowned when Ted drove off a bridge and Kennedy escaped. Scandal arose when it was revealed that Kennedy didn’t call police until the following day. Although he always denied being drunk that night, the events at Chappaquiddick followed him. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, and received a suspended sentence of two months in jail.
Kennedy separated from his first wife, Joan – who had long battled alcohol dependency – in 1982 and in 1992 married Victoria Reggie, a lawyer 22 years his junior. One of his proudest moments was in 1995 when his son Patrick became a congressman from Rhode Island.
Kennedy was hospitalized on May 17, 2008, following a seizure at the family’s compound in Hyannis Port. He was later diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and underwent chemotherapy. Kennedy, who was too ill to attend the funeral of his sister, Eunice Shriver, earlier this month, is survived by his wife and children, Edward Jr., Patrick and Kara Anne.