Who was Joe Biden's first wife, Neilia, and how did she and their daughter die?
Joe Biden's continued recovery from the trauma of the death of his first wife and youngest child has dramatically shaped his career, from the way he speaks to crowds about grief and grief to his views on health care.
The former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate for 2020 has famously framed his current ideas through the lens of his past.
While shopping 30 days before Christmas 1972, his 30-year-old wife Neilia and 13-month-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident after a tractor-trailer full of corn hit the family's Chevrolet station wagon. Campaign literature by the young elected Delaware senator was in the streets.
Her two sons Joseph "Beau" Biden III and Robert Hunter Biden survived.
More than 40 years later, Beau died after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Neilia Hunter was born on July 28, 1942 in the affluent city of Skaneateles as the daughter of successful diner operators in New York State. In 1960 she graduated from Penn Hall Preparatory School in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
She took part in the French club, hockey, swimming and student councils and, according to her school's yearbook, was picture editor of the Penntonian and vice-president and then president of the International Relations Club.
In 1963, Neilia, then a college student at Syracuse University, met Mr. Biden, then a junior at the University of Delaware, on the beach in Nassau during the spring break.
When asked about his career goals, Mr Biden told his future wife's mother, "President." After his bachelor's degree in Delaware, Mr. Biden moved to Syracuse law school. It was there that Neilia earned her Masters in English and taught students with special needs.
They married on August 27, 1966 while he was still enrolled in law school. He called his time there "a dangerous combination of arrogant and sloppy" and ended up finishing 76th in a class of 85.
Upon graduation, the couple moved to the suburbs of Wilmington, where he practiced as a lawyer and joined New Castle County Council.
Although Neilia Hunter was a Republican, Neilia Biden registered as a Democrat, according to The News Journal.
The couple's first and only daughter, Naomi, was born on November 8, 1971, the youngest of three children with two older brothers, Beau and Hunter. She was nicknamed "Amy".
A year later, Biden urged Republican incumbent J Caleb Boggs to get a Delaware seat in the US Senate.
Neilia became his closest advisor and the "brain" behind his campaign, The News Journal reported.
The family campaigned across the state for a lucrative grassroots campaign in which they attacked his incumbent Republican for being old and indifferent. This came as a shock to the status quo, which highlighted the generational gaps between the base of the older Conservative statesman and a much younger post-Vietnam War electorate. It was also the first year that 18-year-olds were eligible to vote.
The 30-year-old outsider won the race in November 1972.
The following month, Neilia asked her husband, "What's going to happen, Joey? Things are too good," reported the News Journal.
A week before Christmas while the senator-elect was in Washington DC, he was interviewing staff for his new office when he received news of the deaths of his wife and daughter.
After that call, "my whole world was forever changed," Biden later said in a speech to Yale University graduates.
Around 1,200 people crowded a memorial service for Neilia and Naomi, the Delaware State News reported.
In his 2017 book Promise Me, Dad, Mr. Biden wrote, “The pain ... seemed unbearable at first, and it took me a long time to heal, but survived the punishment. I made it with a lot of support and reconstructed my life and my family. "
He was officially sworn in at his sons bedside while they were still in the hospital.
The freshman senator had also planned for Neilia to organize his Capitol Hill office, the Evening Journal reported.
Mr. Biden said in his speech at Yale, “I remember my mother - a cute woman - looking at me after we left the hospital and saying, 'Joey, everything that is terrible is becoming a good thing come if you look carefully. '”
With an intense, heartbreaking focus on his family, Mr. Biden then began commuting daily from Washington to Delaware to stay with his young sons. It earned him the nickname Amtrak Joe.
"And I started commuting thinking I was just staying for a while - four hours a day, every day - from Washington to Wilmington, which I have been doing for over 37 years," he said in his speech at Yale. “I did it because I wanted to kiss her good night and kiss her the next morning in the morning. ... But when I look back, to be honest, the real reason I went home every night was because I needed my children more than they needed me. "
Five years after the accident, Mr. Biden married Jill Jacobs, then a student at the University of Delaware. They met on a blind date.
The couple were married on June 17, 1977 in the United Nations Chapel in New York City. Beau and Hunter attended both the ceremony and the honeymoon.
Hunter named his daughter Naomi in honor of his future sister.
The former vice president has relied on the tragedies of his life to speak to voters who have faced a similar loss.
In an interview with MSNBC earlier this year, he said that "hundreds of people ... throw their arms over me" to tell him about the loss of their sons, daughters and spouses, and "is all they want to know that they can. " do it".
"The way you do it, you find purpose and realize that they are within you," he said. "They are part of you. It is impossible to part."
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