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Saoirse Kennedy Hill Death Adds to Family’s Tragic History

The death of Ms. Kennedy Hill at 22 adds to a litany of tragedies that have befallen the Kennedys and taken on the grim aura of a family curse.

Saoirse Kennedy (2019)

Saoirse Kennedy Hill, 22, a granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, died on Thursday after suffering an apparent overdose at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Mass.

“Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse,” the Kennedy family said in a statement. “Her life was filled with hope, promise and love.”

Her death adds to a litany of tragedies that have befallen the Kennedys and taken on the grim aura of a family curse. Here is a look back at some of the misfortunes that have struck one of the most prominent and influential families in the United States.

Kara Kennedy (2011)

Kara, the daughter of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, died of a heart attack after working out at a Washington-area health club. She was 51.

Ms. Kennedy was a filmmaker and the eldest of the three children of Mr. Kennedy and Joan Bennett Kennedy. She was a mother to two teenagers.

“Unlike my father, I felt more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it,” she wrote in the Boston Globe Magazine a few months before her death. “But like him, I found my greatest fulfillment in showing the needs and successes of others.”

John F. Kennedy Jr. (1999)

John Jr.’s salute in a blue dress coat and short pants at his father’s funeral is etched into many American hearts and minds. The day his father was buried was also his third birthday.

He attended Brown University and New York University Law School before serving as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office and becoming the editor of George, a political magazine that he founded in 1995.

John Jr. “almost certainly would have gone into politics,” said Laurence Leamer, the author of multiple books on the Kennedys. “And he would have been successful.”

But in 1999 and at the age of 38, John Jr. was killed when the airplane he was flying crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha’s Vineyard, Mass; his wife and sister-in-law were on board and were also killed. They were on their way to the wedding of Rory, Robert’s youngest child.

Instead of celebrating the marriage, family members gathered at the Kennedy compound to keep vigil for their relatives, awaiting word of their fate.

Michael Kennedy (1997)

On New Year’s Eve 1997, David’s brother Michael was in Aspen, Colo., playing a game, football on skis, that the family had enjoyed for years. Michael, 39, had been tossing a small rubber football with several relatives, lost control of one ski and crashed into a tree. He died from his injuries.

Michael ran a nonprofit that delivered heating fuel to the poor and had worked on political campaigns for his family members.

David Kennedy (1984)

David was 13, watching television alone in a Los Angeles hotel room, when he saw his father, Robert, fatally shot on the screen.

At the age of 28, David, who had a history of heroin of alcohol and heroin addiction, died of a drug overdose in a hotel near a family vacation home in Palm Beach, Fla.

“It is a very difficult time for all of the members of our family, including David’s mother, Ethel, and his brothers and sisters who tried so hard to help him in recent years,” David’s uncle, Edward, said at the time. “All of us loved him very much. With trust in God, we all pray that David has finally found the peace that he did not find in life.

Robert F. Kennedy (1968)

Robert, the president’s brother and his attorney general, resigned from that post almost 10 months after John’s assassination. He captured a senate seat from New York and as the turmoil of the 1960s grew, many Americans looked to him to heal a nation torn by the Vietnam War and divided by race and class.

He began his own bid for the presidency and won California’s Democratic primary, but was shot on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and died the next day. He was 42.

“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the only remaining brother, in his eulogy. “To be remembered simply as 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.”

About one million people lined stretches of railroad tracks from New York to Washington in a giant chain of mourning as Mr. Kennedy’s coffin was sent to Arlington National Cemetery.

“You have a feeling in a personal way of immense infinite loss,” one of Mr. Kennedy’s aides said of watching the crowds from the train. For many Americans, the hope they felt at the start of the 1960s with President Kennedy’s inaugural was extinguished by his brother’s death.

Robert, who was a surrogate father to President Kennedy’s son and daughter, left 10 children of his own, with an 11th on the way.

John F. Kennedy (1963)

Like his older brother, Mr. Kennedy joined the Navy and was a lieutenant assigned to the South Pacific as commander of a patrol torpedo boat, the PT-109. A Japanese attack sank the boat and killed two of Lt. Kennedy’s men, but he managed to save the rest of the crew and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a purple heart.

He skirted death then, and was also administered last rites during a childhood bout of scarlet fever; after a hospitalization in London when he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease as an adult; when a fever sent him into a coma in Tokyo; and again after he slipped into a coma after back surgery in 1954.

Returning home to Massachusetts after the war, he won a congressional seat in 1946, and was elected to the Senate in 1952.

In July 1960, he became the Democratic nominee for president and defeated Vice President Richard M. Nixon in November by the slimmest popular vote margin at the time.

His assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 at the age of 46, was a searing moment of shock and grief not only for the family, but also for the nation.

“The sniper’s bullet left one wound that is not healed, a wound to our consciousness of ourselves as Americans,” the culture critic Dwight Macdonald wrote in December 1963.

Americans stayed glued to their television sets for nearly four days, from the assassination on a Friday afternoon to President Kennedy’s state funeral on Monday afternoon, which was watched in 93 percent of all homes with TVs, an unprecedented domestic audience.

Patrick Bouvier Kennedy (1963)

Patrick, who was born five and a half weeks premature to President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, in 1963, died three months before his father’s assassination. He had what is now known as respiratory distress syndrome, and his life lasted less than 40 hours.

“He put up quite a fight,” the president said. “He was a beautiful baby.” After Patrick died, the president retreated to his private room in the hospital and cried, according to his close aides.

Mrs. Kennedy remained hospitalized for another week after giving birth. Her first extended public appearance in the United States after Patrick’s death came in November on the Kennedys’ trip to Texas.

Kathleen Kennedy (1948)

As an 18-year-old, Kathleen, the second-eldest daughter, joined her father in London when he became United States ambassador to Britain. She fell in love with Europe and would eventually settle there.

Kathleen, known as “Kick,” was a columnist at the Times-Herald newspaper in Washington when she, too, volunteered for the war effort in 1943 and returned to London.

While there she married William Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington and a member of the British Army. He joined his regiment in France one month after their wedding, and was killed in combat three months later. She was a widow at 24.

Kathleen was planning to marry again, but was killed when a small plane she and her fiancé were taking from Paris to the French Riviera for a vacation crashed. She was 28.

The epitaph on her grave reads: “Joy she gave, joy she has found.”

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (1944)

The eldest child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, Joseph Jr. was set to enter his final year at Harvard Law School in 1943, but instead volunteered to serve as flier for the United States Navy in World War II.

He was sent to England, and died during a secret mission when an experimental aircraft loaded with explosives blew up over the English Channel.

The family was together in Hyannis Port on a Sunday afternoon in August when two priests came with news of his death, at age 29.

“My father took the two men upstairs,” Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Joseph Jr.’s sister, said later. “A little while later he came down and said, ‘We’ve lost Joe.’”

“Then he went back upstairs to his room and locked the door.”

When Joe Jr. was born, his grandfather, Mayor John F. Fitzgerald of Boston, announced to the news media that the newborn would become president someday.

“Joe was the star of our family,” John F. Kennedy said years later. “He did everything better than the rest of us.”

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