May 18, 2012 --
The suicide of Mary Richardson Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., adds another chapter to the tragic history of a family that has been in the American eye for around 80 years. She was 52 years old. Dubbed the "Kennedy curse," the large family has seen more than its fair share of misfortune over the years, with multiple members facing untimely deaths.
Each of the nine children raised by Rose Elizabeth and Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. stood out in their own way. But Rosemary Kennedy suffered from psychological illness and possibly even mental retardation. In 1941, her father received advice that a lobotomy might alleviate her symptoms. The procedure proved disastrous and left her permanently incapacitated. Rosemary would remain in private mental health institutions for the duration of her life, until 2005 when she died.
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Long before John F. Kennedy entered the political arena, Joseph Kennedy Sr., the patriarch of family, had been grooming his eldest son, Joseph Kennedy Jr., for a career in politics. That plan came to an abrupt end when, on Aug. 12, 1944, Joseph Jr.'s bomber plane exploded in flight over the English Channel, killing him at the age of 29. The explosion vaporized Joseph Jr. and his copilot, making it impossible to recover their remains.
A mere four years after the death of the eldest son of the family, Kathleen Kennedy, the fourth child in the Kennedy clan, died in a plane crash in France. She was only 28 years old.
Undoubtedly the most famous tragedy to befall the Kennedys and possibly the most devastating for the country was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. On Nov. 22, 1963, the president was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald during a tour through Dallas, Texas as part of Kennedy's reelection campaign. The death of the 46-year-old president shocked the nation. Nearly 50 years after his assassination, many Americans still don't believe Oswald was actually responsible for the president's death, with different conspiracy theories laying the blame at the feet of everyone from the mafia to the KGB to the CIA and many more.
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Five years after the assassination of his older brother, Robert F. Kennedy, then a senator from New York, launched a late campaign for the Democratic party nomination for the presidency. Despite his late entry and going up against the then-incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson (until Johnson announced his plans to suspend his campaign and not seek another term as president), Kennedy quickly became the frontrunner. Shortly after winning the California Democratic primary and addressing a crowd of supporters in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, Kennedy exited the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel and attempted to take a shortcut out of the building through the kitchen. There, Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, who cited Kennedy's support for Israel as a motive for his actions.
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In 1964, Edward "Ted" Kennedy nearly died in a plane crash, which claimed the lives of two other aboard including an aide and the pilot. The injuries he would sustain, including a broken ribs, a broken back and a punctured lung, would cause him pain for the rest of his life. However, it was another tragedy that would haunt the youngest of the Kennedy children for the rest of his life, the Chappaquiddick incident. After a night of partying on July 18, 1969, one year after the death of his brother, Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick island. He abandoned the vehicle, leaving passenger Mary Jo Kopechne behind to drown. Her body was uncovered by divers the next day.
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In 1984, the "Kennedy curse" struck a new generation of Kennedys for the first time. David Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, reportedly never recovered after the death of his father. Shortly after the assassination, the younger Kennedy took to drugs to cope with the tragedy. In 1973, David was involved in a Jeep accident that left him with fractured vertebrae and sparked an addiction to painkillers. On April 25, 1984, David was found dead in a hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., the result of an overdose due to a combination painkillers, antipsychotic medication and cocaine.
On Dec. 31, 1997, Michael Kennedy, another son of Robert F. Kennedy, was on a family vacation in Aspen, Colo. While playing football on skis with other members of his family, the younger Kennedy crashed into a tree. The accident claimed his life. He was 39 years old when he died.
On July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr., the only son of the former president, flew a small aircraft from Essex County Aircraft in New Jersey en route to Martha's Vineyard. His wife, Carolyn Jeanne Bessette, and sister-in-law were also aboard for the trip. While flying over the Atlantic Ocean at night in hazy conditions, Kennedy reportedly became disoriented and crashed the plane. No one abroad survived. Kennedy was 38 at the time of the crash.
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