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How did Joe Biden's wife Neilia and infant daughter die? POTUS pays tribute on death anniversary

Neilia and Joe were married for six years before she and Biden's daughter died in a car accident leaving behind Beau and Hunter Biden
UPDATED DEC 19, 2021
Joe Biden has paid tribute to his first wife Neilia Biden on 49th anniversary of her death (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Joe Biden has paid tribute to his first wife Neilia Biden on 49th anniversary of her death (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden visited the graves of his first wife and infant daughter Naomi on Saturday, December 18. Biden had lost the two 49 years ago in a car accident. The mother-daughter duo was put to rest at Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church in 1972 after they lost their lives while traveling to pick up a Christmas tree. Biden’s sons — Beau and Hunter, ages 4 and 3 at the time — were also inside the car, but they survived after suffering serious injuries.

The tragedy struck the now-president's family soon after he was elected to the Senate. In 2012, he opened up about the pain he had to endure while addressing the families of fallen US soldiers at an event. He said, “By the tone of the phone call, you just knew. You just felt it in your bones: Something bad happened. 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?' 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.”


How did Joe Biden's first wife Neilia Hunter die? Jill recalls meeting family amid 'wreckage of unthinkable loss'

Joe Biden visits graves of first wife Neilia, daughter Naomi who died in car crash while picking Christmas tree

Joe Biden departs St Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church after attending Sunday service on September 13, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In 2015 again, Biden spoke about Neilia during a commencement speech at Yale University. He said: “While I was in Washington hiring staff, I got a phone call...My wife and three children were Christmas shopping. A tractor-trailer broadsided them and killed my wife and killed my daughter.”

First Lady Jill Biden has also talked about Neilia and the horrifying time the Biden family had to go through years ago. In 2020, during a Democratic National Convention speech, she stated, “Like so many of you, I’m left asking, 'how do I keep my family safe?' You know, motherhood came to me in a way I never expected. I fell in love with a man and two little boys standing in the wreckage of unthinkable loss, mourning a wife and mother, a daughter and sister. I never imagined, at the age of 26, I would be asking myself, 'how do you make a broken family whole?' Still, Joe always told the boys, 'mommy sent Jill to us'. And how could I argue with her? And so, we figured it out together.”

Joe Biden and grandchildren Natalie Biden (L) and Hunter Biden II (C) depart St Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church after Natalie's confirmation Mass on September 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Who was Neilia Biden?

Like Jill, Biden’s first wife Neilia was also a teacher. She was from New York and was born to parents — Louise and Robert Hunter — on 28 July 1942. She reportedly completed her initial education from a boarding school, Penn Hall, in Pennsylvania. Apart from studies, she was also active in sports. She was on the hockey and swimming team as well as a student council member.

Senator-elect Joseph Biden and wife Nelia cut his 30th birthday cake at a party in Wilmington while his son Hunter waits for the first piece (Getty Images)

Neilia completed her college education at Syracuse University and taught English in schools, including Bellevue Elementary School in Syracuse. In the early 1960s, she met Biden in Nassau, Bahamas, when the latter was on a spring break. A few years later in August 1966, the pair exchanged their vows. Eventually, they went on to become the parents of three children — Robert Hunter, Josephy 'Beau' Robinette, and Naomi. But their happiness lasted for only six years as the loving family fell apart in 1972.