By Sam Waltz
The loss of Beau Biden at 46 on May 30 is a personal tragedy at the highest level, but it’s a loss for all Delawareans whom he seemed destined to serve as the heir to his father’s service.
Brain cancer took Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, the second of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s children to die tragically.
Local press have reported that Beau Biden had not talked to the media since before he left office as Delaware’s attorney general in early January. And Delaware’s political elite seemed seriously surprised to hear of his passing, so well kept was the secret of his declining health.
But it was on the morning of Friday, Jan. 23, when I bumped into Beau Biden in Purebread Deli in Greenville.
When Beau and I saw each other – he’d come after I already was seated with my back to the room – each of us stood up to greet the other. I put out my right hand to shake his hand, and he extended his left.
Unusual, of course, and I glanced at his right hand. His right arm hung limply at his side.
I didn’t say anything to anyone about it, I didn’t talk or write about it at the time or while he was alive.
Any person deserves privacy on healthcare matters, and a family deserves privacy for its personal issues like that, and it was not up to me to disclose what they didn’t want to disclose.
Despite his health issues, Beau was amiable, cordial and friendly as always when he greeted me and my breakfast companion, an attorney active in Republican politics.
I’ve felt like I’d known Beau Biden all his life, since I’d covered his dad as a reporter, as far back as the mid-1970s, when Joe was in his mid 30s and I was in my mid 20s. In reality, it had been just the last 15 years that I’d known Beau.
It was May 2004, for a cover story for Delaware Today magazine on 40 young Delawareans to watch for a future in politics, that I’d chatted with Beau. The magazine put Beau on the cover alongside Christine O’Donnell, who yet had not run for any office, and John Clatworthy, who ran for the Greenville seat in the Delaware Senate a few years later.
While I never enjoyed any inner-circle status with either Beau or the Biden family, Beau and I enjoyed getting to know each other well over the dozen years since and he always greeted me warmly, asked about my family and we’d quickly deconstruct Delaware politics.
Such meetings were not regular, but often, perhaps every six to eight weeks, most often outside or inside that same Purebread Deli that functioned as a political headquarters for Beau, much as it had for his dad before he became vice president. Three tables along the back wall, the most obscure in the very open café, often served as the planning arena with Beau’s advisors, frequently men like Ted Kaufman who also had served his father from his election in 1972.
As I think today about Beau Biden, he. Indeed. was all that people have said about him and more.
He was selfless in his service to us as Delawareans, as he was in his service to his country. He was dedicated and loving to his family. We’d chatted one time a year or two ago on the playing fields of Swift Park in Hockessin, where he was for a Piedmont Baseball game.
Joe Biden’s accolades for Beau say it best. “You’re a success when your children turn out better than you.” Beau absolutely turned out as a fine young man, a father, a son, a brother and a husband in what has emerged as Delaware’s first family.
Delaware is better because Beau Biden was among us.