Written By Rana G on Tuesday, December 7, 2010 | 6:12 PM
Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Elizabeth Edwards, a popular figure in the Democratic Party whose life was shaped by loss, first of a teenage son, then of her husband's two presidential campaigns, then of a marriage torn by his infidelity, has died. She was 61.
She died yesterday at her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, surrounded by friends and family including her estranged husband, former Democratic U.S. Senator John Edwards, the Associated Press reported, citing a statement from the family. Throughout a six-year battle with breast cancer, she devoted herself to raising son Jack, 10, and daughter Emma Claire, 12, her two youngest children.
"In her life, Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration."
Edwards endured cancer treatments while supporting her husband's bid -- against Obama, among others -- for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Later, she concluded her husband shouldn't have run, because he had had affair with a filmmaker traveling with him in 2006. She separated from her husband in January.
Her health was a sad footnote to two presidential campaigns. She was diagnosed with breast cancer the day after the 2004 general election, a Republican victory that spoiled her husband's chance to be vice president. In March 2007, during her husband's second campaign, doctors found the cancer had spread to her bones and was incurable.
"The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered," Edwards wrote on her Facebook page yesterday, after doctors determined her cancer had metastasized to the liver. "We know that."
John Edwards's affair with filmmaker Rielle Hunter produced a child, as well as an investigation, still open, of whether the candidate and others improperly used campaign money to support Hunter. The former North Carolina senator became a pariah in his party, not least because of what it might have meant to Democrats' election chances had he won the nomination, only to be exposed as unfaithful.
Along with sympathy, the affair drew some criticism of Elizabeth as well, for permitting her husband to continue running for the 2008 nomination while they jointly held such a potentially explosive secret.
Fallout From Affair
In a 2009 book, "Resilience," Edwards said her husband confessed to her about the affair in the final days of 2006, after returning home from a tour announcing his second run for president. She said she cried, screamed and threw up at hearing the news. She said both of them later realized "he should not have run." Asked in a television interview if they were still in love, she replied, "You know, that's a complicated question."
It wasn't until August 2008 that John Edwards acknowledged the affair publicly.
Hunter, in a 2010 interview with GQ magazine, said the Edwards marriage was troubled long before she entered the picture. She said John was "emasculated" with fear of "the wrath of Elizabeth." Elizabeth Edwards said that wasn't true.
Even before the infidelity issue was made public, Elizabeth Edwards faced questions about whether campaigning with cancer in 2007 was the best course for the couple's two youngest children, then 8 and 6, who began traveling with their parents and learning from tutors.
Edwards answered the critics in a 2007 addendum to "Saving Graces," her memoir.
"Our children learn something from our choice to live," she wrote. "They will have struggles, I know, struggles from which I cannot protect them, struggles after I am gone. And when they come, our children will remember how their family, how we, chose to handle hardship. I want them to say, 'We did not give into hardship.'"
Mary Elizabeth Anania was born on July 3, 1949, at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida, where her father, Vince, a Navy pilot, was based.
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