Joe Biden Holds Private Memorial for First Wife and Baby Daughter, 50 Years After Their Tragic Deaths

Joe Biden Holds Private Memorial for First Wife and Baby Daughter, 50 Years After Their Tragic Deaths

Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden took time on Sunday to remember the president's first wife and college sweetheart, Neilia Hunter Biden, and their 13-month-old daughter, Naomi — 50 years after the two died in a 1972 car accident.

On Sunday morning, the president and first lady, along with other family members, attended "a private family memorial mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church" in Delaware, the White House said, visiting the gravesites of Naomi and Neilia following the service.

The death of Biden's wife and daughter came just one month after he won his first Senate race.
Biden's sons, Beau and Hunter, who were both very young at the time, were also in the car and were badly injured, but survived.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk between tombstones to attend Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, De., on . Sunday marks the 50th death anniversary of President Biden's first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden and their daughter Naomi Biden,

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Shutterstock

When Biden was sworn into the Senate in 1973, he did so at Beau's Wilmington, Delaware, bedside, which he rarely left.

News reports from the time detailed how Neilia, then 30, was driving home from holiday shopping with their three young kids — Beau, 3; Hunter, 2; and Naomi, 1 — when the family station wagon collided with a tractor-trailer in an intersection outside Wilmington.

"A Christmas tree, briefcase, telephone index cards and literature from Biden's Senate campaign were thrown from the car," the reports detailed, adding that the station wagon itself "was demolished."

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President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden followed by granddaughters Maisy Biden, carrying a wreath, Finnegan Biden and Natalie Biden, right, leave St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., after attending Mass on . Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the car crash that killed Biden's first wife Neilia Hunter Biden and 13-month-old daughter Naomi Biden

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Shutterstock

Biden has previously opened up about the events of that day, saying in a 2012 speech that he was at the U.S. Capitol building, preparing his staff, when he received a phone call telling that his family members had been in a car accident on their way to buy a Christmas tree.

"By the tone of the phone call, you just knew," he said in 2012, addressing the families of fallen U.S. soldiers. "You just felt it in your bones: Something bad happened."

As he left the U.S. Capitol building, "I remember looking up and saying, 'God,' as if I was talking to God myself, 'You can't be good, how can you be good?' "

He continued: "For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide. Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, because they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again."

RELATED: Joe Biden Visits Graves of First Wife and Their Baby Daughter on Anniversary of Deadly Christmas Car Crash

According to a pool report, Hunter was on hand at the Sunday service, along with some of the president's grandchildren, who could be seen carrying a large wreath with white flowers and placing it at the graves.

In 2015, Biden lost another family member — his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer at age 46 and is buried near Neilia and Naomi.

Hunter has also opened up about the car accident, telling CBS News in a 2021 interview that his years of harrowing substance abuse were, he felt, a direct result of the trauma.

Hunter named his first daughter Naomi, after his younger sister.