U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy dies

(KHNL) - The patriarch of what's been called America's royal family has died.

Senator Edward Kennedy, better known as Ted, passed away Tuesday in Massachusetts.

The 77-year-old had fought a more than year-long battle with brain cancer.

He's being remembered for his decades of public service.

Edward Kennedy grew up in the shadow of two brothers who became American icons.

But his decades in the United States Senate established him as a political legend in his own right.

"They want to undermine the Medicare system -- and the next is going to be Social Security!" Kennedy told the Senate floor back in November of 2003.

Though blessed with family wealth and fame, he was devoted to helping those not so fortunate.

Massachusetts voters sent him to the senate in 1962, two years after brother John F. Kennedy won the White House.

The heady days of camelot were short-lived; and tragedy became his crucible.

JFK's assassination in 1963 was followed by Robert Kennedy's assassination in 1968.

"A good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it," said Ted Kennedy at his brother Robert's funeral.

It then seemed Teddy's destiny - and burden - to run for president.

He did in 1980 against President Jimmy Carter.

Kennedy lost the nomination then delivered a stirring convention speech many considered his finest.

"The cause endures. The hope still lives. The dream shall never die," he said at the 1980 Democratic National Convention.

His political star was often eclipsed by a tumultuous private life.

In 1969, he drove off this bridge at Chappaquiddick Island. Campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne died; Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene.

His 24 year marriage to Joan ended in divorce in 1982.

A decade later he married Victoria Reggie who brought balance to his personal life and a renewed sense of purpose in Washington.

At age 75 he appeared to be at the top of his game when he endorsed Barack Obama, in effect handing the Kennedy torch to a new generation.

Edward Kennedy - lionized by liberals - often demonized by conservatives...but remembered by all as a passionate lawmaker who made a difference.

The Kennedy family issued a statement, saying:

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever."

He is survived by his second wife, Victoria, whom he married in 1992, as well as his first wife Joan, and five children.