Vice President's Mother, Jean Finnegan Biden, Passes Away at 92

Vice President Joe Biden spoke frequently, affectionately of their relationship.

January 7, 2010, 5:51 PM

Jan. 8, 2010— -- Vice President Joe Biden's mother, Jean Finnegan Biden, died today in Wilmington Delaware at the age of 92. She was surrounded by family members.

"At 92, she was the center of our family and taught all of her children that family is to be treasured, loyalty is paramount and faith will guide you through the tough times. She believed in us, and because of that, we believed in ourselves," Biden said in a statement released by his office. "Together with my father, her husband of 61 years who passed away in 2002, we learned the dignity of hard work and that you are defined by your sense of honor. Her strength, which was immeasurable, will live on in all of us."

Biden said his mother passed away "surrounded by her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and many loved ones."

The Vice President was in Wilmington on Thursday to be with his mother and family. A statement from Biden's office said that Mrs. Biden had taken "seriously ill in recent days." A source close to the family said she had been in hospice care recently.

Mrs. Biden lived with her son and his family at their Greenville, Del. home, in a smaller carriage house on the property. She did not make the move to Washington after he was sworn in as vice president, but the vice president frequently spent weekends in Delaware with her.

In a 2008 campaign speech Biden extolled the importance of children taking care of their parents.

"Make sure your mother doesn't go without what she needs in her later years or your father," he said in Wisconsin on Sept. 8

The vice president often said that his mother "runs the show," depicting her as the classic matriarch of a large family that consisted of four children and over a dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mrs. Biden's husband, Joseph Biden Sr., died in 2002.

Mrs. Biden appeared to be in good health during the 2008 presidential campaign. She stood on stage with the extended Biden family after her son delivered perhaps his most important speech of his political career, accepting the vice presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Mrs. Biden even hit the campaign trail with her son, dropping by a picnic in the backyard of their old home in Scranton, Pa., on Labor Day. She voted with her son in Delaware on Election Day, walking hand-in-hand into the school where the polls were located and later joined the family on stage that night for the victory celebration in Chicago.

She underwent surgery on March 16, 2009 for a hip fracture that she suffered after a fall at home.

Biden went home to be with her at the hospital in Philadelphia and said that when he arrived he told his mother he had cleared his schedule to be able to spend time with her.

That did not sit well with Mrs. Biden, who knew her son had a standing engagement to deliver remarks to International Association of Firefighters later that day.

Biden said his mother insisted he keep that appointment - "She said, 'Joey, talk to the fire fighters.'"

Biden retold the exchange in his remarks to the firefighters in Washington - showing that even the man who is first-in-line to the presidency knows to not disobey his mother's advice.

Biden Frequently Invoked His Mother's Wit and Wisdom

Biden often spoke publicly of his mother and their warm, affectionate relationship was evident in his musings.

One of his most frequently used phrases is, "My mother has a saying…" and he often would regale campaign audiences, politicians and reporters with anecdotes of his childhood and upbringing in Scranton, and later in Wilmington.

His favorite quote? "'God love him,' as my mother would say," Biden loved to recall.

In his remarks accepting the vice presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention last August, Biden spoke emotionally about the influence his mother had on his life and the lessons she taught him.

"I thank God and I'm grateful that my mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, is here tonight," Biden said. "Mom, I love you."

"My mom taught her children, all the children who flocked to our house, that you're defined by your sense of honor and you're redeemed by your loyalty," he said. "Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable."

Biden said that his mother had such a large role in his life that she even thought she would be useful during the daily grind of the presidential campaign in the fall of 2008.

Biden joked on the trail in September of that year that his mother asked him if he was sure he didn't need her to travel on his campaign plane.

"And I said, 'Mom, I can make it'" then-Sen. Biden said to laughter. But his mother insisted – "'Do you want me to come with you, honey?'' Biden said she said.

Perhaps he could have used her when the rhetoric grew heated. Biden has described his mother as his fiercest defender, in life and in the rough and tumble political arena.

"'Show me the guy that says something about you, Joey," he said his mother said.

A Mother's Words of Wisdom

Biden, who had a stuttering problem as a child, spoke of how his mother tried to comfort him when he struggled to get his words out.

"She lovingly would look at me and tell me, 'Joey, it's because you're so bright, you can't get the thoughts out quickly enough,'" he said.

In his autobiography, "Promises to Keep," he described a time when his mother marched down to his catholic grammar school to confront a nun who had mocked his stuttering.

"My mother, who was so timid, so respectful of the church, stood up, walked over in front of the nun, and said, 'If you ever speak to my son like that again, I'll come back and rip that bonnet off your head. Do you understand me?'" he wrote.

Biden said his mother could not stand meanness and bullies were at the top of her list.

"When I got knocked down by guys bigger than me, and this is the God's truth, she sent me back out and said, 'Bloody their nose…so you can walk down the street the next day,' he recounted in his convention in Denver. "And that's what I did."

Even though he frequently spoke of his mother's toughness and grit, he also spoke of her softer side.

On St. Patrick's Day last year he said his mother was "the soul, spirit and essence of what it means to be an Irish American."

"She's spiritual, she's romantic, she honors tradition and she understands that the thickest of all substances is blood, and the greatest of all virtues is courage," he said.

After her fall and hospitalization last March, President Obama called Mrs. Biden "a sweetheart."

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