As someone who has watched, in the background, as Joe Biden has been part of our political and personal lives in Delaware, I’m greatly saddened by the death of his son Beau. Those of us who lived through the Kennedy years sometimes compare the Biden family to the Kennedys. There was so much promise. There were shining, young politicians. There was hope that dreams would, indeed, never die. Thus has been the dream of the Biden family. Too young even to hold the office, when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate, Joe Biden immediately exhibited the devotion to his family that has continued through more than four decades of public service. When his wife and small daughter were killed in a tragic car crash, weeks after the election, he chose to commute between D.C. and Delaware, to be with his sons, Beau and Hunter, who had been seriously injured.
After five proposals, he married Jill and we were, once again, smiling to see Delaware’s “Junior Senator” happy again. His devotion to his sons continued, as did his obvious love for Jill and his daughter Ashley. While all of that was going on, I’d been a journalist, and spent lots of time interviewing Joe and talking “off the record” about his feelings, his spirituality, and his love for and devotion to his family. I remember bumping into him at Grotto’s in Dewey Beach one weekend. He was picking up pizza for the family. “Babysitting the kids,” he said with a wide grin. I remember eating ice cream with him and Beau at the Middletown Fire Company, hours after they’d returned from the Middle East. Both looked exhausted, but they dined with and talked with the two dozen or so of us who were there for a couple of hours. Days later, Joe would become the VP selection for our president. Beau, like his dad, loved our emergency responders without hesitation. Delaware’s “junior senator,” as he was known during the realm of Bill Roth, is now one of our nation’s elder statesmen and a heartbeat away from the presidency while serving as our vice president. But he is still “Joe” to most of us who have known and been the recipients of his unfailing public service. He is the ultimate conciliator and, when times are tough, rolls his sleeves up to get things done, a trait that was passed on to his son, Beau. Through personal tragedy and challenges, Joe has remained steadfast in his service to us all. He has been steadfast in his love and devotion to his family. He’s been the first to call and offer condolences when friends or colleagues have had their own challenges or tragedies. His eulogies are heartfelt and given with a feeling that only one whose experienced the pain of loss can communicate to us. Many of us have seen or heard of these deeds firsthand. Beau was much the same type of man. Although young, his star began to shine in its own right. Twice elected attorney general and serving as a member of our National Guard, he loved his precious Hallie and their two children. His political future and shining star were bright. Then came his own personal challenges. First a stroke, then brain cancer that would extinguish that shining star and leave us all wondering how much a family must endure while continuing to serve us. We grieve with and for the Biden family because, for many in Delaware, they are our family. We also know that shining star will rise, once again. It may be in a manner that none of us envision, but I know it will rise and we’ll all be smiling once again. None of us, it’s been said many times, should have to bury our own child. It’s just not right. On Saturday, as Delawareans, we buried our “son,” Beau, but his memory and legacy will live on, and his star will shine brightly in the heavens.
David L. Bonar Delaware Public Advocate Former Dover mayor and council president Dover