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Biden visits graves of first wife, infant daughter on 49th anniversary of car crash

His wife Neilia and 13-month-old daughter Naomi died in 1972 after their car was broadsided while they were en route to pick up a Christmas tree.
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President Joe Biden arrives at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday, the anniversary of Neilia and Naomi Biden's death in a car crash. Matt Rourke / AP

GREENVILLE, Del. — President Joe Biden on Saturday commemorated the 49th anniversary of the car crash that killed his first wife and infant daughter, visiting their graves at the Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church.

Their deaths occurred just after Delaware voters elected Biden to the Senate in 1972 and the fatal car crash became a defining moment that has shaped his persona and career.

His sons Beau and Hunter, ages 4 and 3 at the time, were seriously injured but survived the crash. His wife Neilia and 13-month-old daughter Naomi died after their car was broadsided while they were en route to pick up a Christmas tree.

The tragedy haunted him at the start of his Senate career and has been a touchstone of his presidency, with Biden recently opening a speech in Minnesota by noting how two of that state’s former senators helped him cope.

Then Senator-elect Joseph Biden and wife Neilia cut his 30th birthday cake at a party in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 20, 1972. His son Hunter waits for the first piece. Bettmann Archive

Biden later remarried, Jill, and added daughter Ashley to his family. Both joined him at the church Saturday, as did Hunter and his family among others.

CORRECTION (Dec. 20, 2021, 2:05 p.m. ET): A photo caption in a previous version of this article misspelled the name of Joe Biden’s first wife. Her name was Neilia Biden, not Nelia.