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The matriarch of the Kennedy clan, Rose Kennedy saw three of her sons, Robert, John, and Edward, elected to public office and two of them killed by assassins.
John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the second child of Joseph Patrick and Rose Kennedy. Rose Kennedy taught her son a love of American history and politics.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy was the iron-fisted Kennedy family patriarch who wheeled and dealed his way to wealth and power and pressured his children to succeed at all costs.
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In 1937 Joe Kennedy was named ambassador to Britain, and the family lived abroad for about three years. Tragedy first struck the Kennedy clan during World War II, after their return to the United States. Rose and Joe's third daughter, Rosemary, had been born mentally handicapped. In 1941, at the age of 22, she underwent a lobotomy. The procedure only worsened her condition, and she was later institutionalized. Three years later,
fate dealt the family another tragic blow. The Kennedys' first son, Joe, Jr., a distinguished Navy pilot, died overseas when his plane exploded on a secret mission. Then, in 1948, another child, Kathleen, was killed in a plane crash in Europe. Joe Kennedy, Sr. suffered a severe, debilitating stroke in 1961, less than a year after his son, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States; he lingered for more than half a dozen years before dying in 1968. With her husband incapacitated for so long, Rose Kennedy was forced to face the most trying times of her life without him: by the close of decade, two of her sons would become the victims of assassins.
On November 22, 1963, President John Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas, Texas, while riding in a motorcade. As America mourned, Rose Kennedy found solace in religion and faced the public with poise, dignity, and restraint. She later wrote in her memoir Times to Remember: "I...wondered why it had happened to Jack....Everything -- the culmination of all his efforts, abilities, dedication to good and to the future -- lay boundlessly before him. Everything was gone and I wondered why."
Strengthened by her faith in God, Kennedy survived yet another staggering blow: the 1968 shooting death of her son Robert, a U.S. senator and Democratic presidential contender, at the hands of an assassin. The following year, Kennedy's youngest son, Senator Edward ("Ted") Kennedy, was involved in the notorious Chappaquiddick incident, which destroyed his bid for the U.S. presidency. On July 18, 1969, the senator apparently lost control of the car he was driving and crashed into the waters off Massachusetts's Chappaquiddick Island. The accident resulted in the drowning death of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy failed to report the crash to the authorities until the following day -- a move that undermined his credibility and shook the faith of American voters. In the aftermath of the scandal, Rose Kennedy rallied to her son's aid and helped to rejuvenate his political career by campaigning for his re-election to the U.S. Senate. He maintained his Senate seat for the next three decades. Reflecting on her remarkable forbearance during crisis after crisis, Rose Kennedy proclaimed that she simply would not allow herself to succumb to tragedy. "If I collapsed," the Los Angeles Times quoted her as having said, "it would have a very bad effect on... the family."
Weakened by a stroke in 1984, Kennedy spent the last decade of her life at the family home in Hyannis Port. She died of complications of pneumonia, at the age of 104, on January 22, 1995, in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Five of her children, 28 grandchildren, and 41 great-grandchildren survived her. As her last living son, Senator Ted Kennedy, stated at her eulogy: "She sustained us in the saddest times—by her faith in God, which was the greatest gift she gave us—and by the strength of her character, which was a combination of the sweetest gentleness and the most tempered steel."
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There's no such thing as royalty in the United States, but if anyone has ever come close to that level, it's the Kennedy family. For 64 years, Washington had at least one Kennedy in public office. Descended from Irish Catholics who fled the potato famine, the family has a strong tradition in the Democratic party, the most prominent member being President John F. Kennedy. In addition to fame and political power, the Kennedy clan has had more than its fair share of tragedy—several members of the family have died in accidents and assassinations, in what's been called the "Kennedy curse."
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