Kennedy_clanHYANNIS PORT, Mass.—The last of the greatest Kennedy brothers is dead. Edward Moore Kennedy, 77, died at his home late Tuesday night, succumbing to the brain cancer that had ravaged his body and mind for more than a year. He is survived by his wife Victoria, his sister Jean Kennedy Smith, and his three children.

For those who lived through the tumultuous years after World War II, when at times it seemed as if the world itself was going to catch on fire, the Kennedy brothers each in their own way stood out and above. Even Joseph Jr., who died in battle in 1944, exemplified the idea of promise lost, of youth cut short, and each of the remaining brothers was called, in his turn, to fill his shoes. Fill them they did.

That sense of stepping to the plate to pick up where the previous sibling had left off continued throughout the last century into this one, and not once did any of the brothers, or sisters, as flawed as each may have been in their own way, ever utter a peep of protest. Kennedy’s were, and are, duty-bound and utterly and eternally committed to one another.

Thus they defined family in the truest sense of the word and so much more. Teddy, no less than any of the others, and in many ways more fully, stretched his own individual potential to its limits and probably beyond, even as one tragedy after another, sometimes of his own making, conspired to knock him off his feet. They never succeeded.

The Kennedy clan continues, of course, and several of the scions have picked up the mantle, but each stands squarely on the broad shoulders of the four brothers who lived for one another, for their family and for their country, which they so inimitably represented and so profoundly helped shape.