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Beau Biden, son of vice president, dies at 46

Last Updated May 31, 2015 12:42 AM EDT

WASHINGTON -- Joseph Robinette Biden III (known as "Beau"), the former attorney general of Delaware and the son of Vice President Joe Biden, has died of brain cancer. He was 46.

The vice president released a statement Saturday evening which read:

"It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life.

"The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know that Beau's spirit will live on in all of us--especially through his brave wife, Hallie, and two remarkable children, Natalie and Hunter.

"Beau's life was defined by service to others. As a young lawyer, he worked to establish the rule of law in war-torn Kosovo. A major in the Delaware National Guard, he was an Iraq War veteran and was awarded the Bronze Star. As Delaware's Attorney General, he fought for the powerless and made it his mission to protect children from abuse.

"More than his professional accomplishments, Beau measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother. His absolute honor made him a role model for our family. Beau embodied my father's saying that a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did.

"In the words of the Biden family: Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known."

Soon after, President Obama said in a statement, "Michelle and I are grieving tonight. Beau Biden was a friend of ours. His beloved family -- Hallie, Natalie, and Hunter -- are friends of ours. And Joe and Jill Biden are as good as friends get."

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Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, left, and vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., gesture on stage at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado in this August 27, 2008 photo.
REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Mr. Obama said of the younger Biden, "Beau lived a life that was full; a life that mattered; a life that reflected their reverence for family."

Biden suffered a mild stroke in 2010. According to the vice president's office, Biden was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2013. He had undergone surgery in Houston, followed by radiation and chemotherapy treatments and "was given a clean bill of health" in November 2013.

But this spring, Biden suffered a recurrence. According to the vice president's office, he "sought aggressive treatment" and was admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in May 2015. When he passed away Saturday evening, Biden was "surrounded by his entire family."

Biden served as Delaware's attorney general from 2007-2015. After his first term, he considered running for the Delaware Senate seat vacated by his father when he became vice president.

But citing the "need to focus on a case of great consequence" -- the prosecution of Dr. Earl Bradley, a pediatrician accused of large-scale child molestation -- Biden ultimately decided to run for a second term as Delaware attorney general.

However, he decided not to seek reelection to a third in 2014, announcing instead in April of that year that he would run for governor in 2016.

Biden joined the Army National Guard in 2003 and rose to the rank of major. He deployed to Iraq for a year in 2009 and was awarded a Bronze Star.

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In this Jan. 5, 1973, photo, four-year-old Beau Biden, foreground, watches his dad, Joe Biden, center, being sworn in as the U.S. senator from Delaware in ceremonies in a Wilmington hospital.
AP

The vice president has been faced with this kind of deep personal loss before.

In 1972, his first wife Neilia and their children -- four-year-old Beau, two-year-old Hunter and infant daughter Naomi -- had been out Christmas shopping when a tractor trailer broadsided their station wagon, killing Neilia and Naomi and critically injuring the two boys.

Beau and Hunter both made full recoveries from their injuries, but they were in the hospital long enough that newly elected Senator Joe Biden was sworn in at Beau's hospital bedside.

Biden is survived by his wife, Hallie, and their two children, Natalie and Hunter; his parents Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden; his brother Hunter Biden, sister-in-law Kathleen, and nieces Naomi, Finnegan, and Maisy; and his sister Ashley Biden and brother-in-law Howard Krein.