Besides his three children and two stepchildren, Ted Kennedy was a surrogate father to the kids left behind by his slain brothers. Robert Kennedy had 11.
"Every single one of my brothers and sisters needed a father, and we gained one through Uncle Teddy," said Joseph Kennedy III. "For so many of us, we just needed someone to hang onto, and Teddy was always there."
Always there, for every baptism, graduation and wedding, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor. He walked one of President John Kennedy's two children - Caroline - down the aisle.
"He showed us how to keep going no matter how hard things were, to love each other no matter how mad we got and, keep working for what we believe in," said Caroline Kennedy Scholssberg. "He convinced us we could ace the next test, make the varsity team, win the next race, whether it was sailing or politics."
After Caroline's wedding, her mother, Jacqueline, wrote Ted a poignant letter, which then-CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger recounted in this 2000 interview for 60 Minutes.
"On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to be spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love," Borger read.
"It's about as nice as you can get," Sen. Kennedy replied.
When John Kennedy, Jr. was lost in a plane crash 10 years ago, Sen. Kennedy took charge, and took care of Caroline.
"Ted Kennedy flew to her house on Long Island and spent the whole day with her and even played basketball with her kids," said Peter Canellos, the editor of "The Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy."
In all, he had 28 nephews and nieces, and there were 60 kids who called him Great Uncle Teddy.
"Ted Kennedy just was about forging forward, going, going. Don't quit, don't throw in the towel," said presidential historian Doug Brinkley. "He had the skills to keep everything glued together, even though the family had been beset by such awful circumstances over the decades."
The Kennedys say that when word of his death came Tuesday, they lost the "irreplaceable center" of their large, extended family.
"It was a beautiful summer night, the moon had set, there was no wind, the sea was calm and the stars were out," Caroline said at Friday's memorial service. "I looked up and there was this one star hanging low in the sky, that was just bigger than all the rest and brighter than all the rest, and with a twinkle and a sparkle louder than all the others. I know it was Jupiter, but it was acting a lot like Teddy."