Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this obituary of lawyer and political spouse Elizabeth Edwards misstated in one instance the month in 2008 when her husband, John Edwards, ended his candidacy for U.S. president. He withdrew from the competition for the Democratic nomination in January 2008. This version has been corrected.
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Elizabeth Edwards dies; lived her pain on a public stage

Edwards, stoic as her husband's presidential ambitions collapsed, her marriage crumbled and cancer sapped her strength, died Tuesday of the disease. She was 61.

When the National Enquirer exposed the affair just before the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Ms. Edwards stepped out of the limelight but made it clear that she was staying in the marriage.

"This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well," she wrote on the Daily Kos.

She did not abandon the public stage, however. A month later, she began speaking at events across the country and testifying before Congress about the need for better national health care. She also joined the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, as a senior fellow.

Heartbreaking loss

Born Mary Elizabeth Anania on July 3, 1949, in Jacksonville, Fla., Ms. Edwards was the daughter of a Navy pilot and grew up in Japan, where her father was stationed twice.

She received a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also went to law school. She married John Edwards, a fellow student, shortly after their graduation in 1977.

She clerked for U.S. District Judge J. Calvitt Clarke Jr. in Norfolk, then worked in the North Carolina attorney general's office and later at the firm of Merriman, Nicholls and Crampton in Raleigh, remaining there until 1996.

A mother of two, she had a full and lucrative life as a lawyer and homemaker. But when son Wade was killed after his car, buffeted by a strong wind, slid and rolled, she quit her job and stayed home to care for then-14-year-old daughter Cate. She and her husband set up a foundation in Wade's honor.

For many months, she visited Wade's grave site every day. She took his SAT score when it arrived after his death. She read him books from his classmates' school reading list, she said in her memoir. It was after his death that she, who had always used her own family name professionally, became Elizabeth Edwards.

"I took my son's name," she told Ms. magazine in 2004. "I didn't take my husband's name."

Within a couple of years, she underwent fertility treatments so that at age 48 and 50 she could give birth to her two youngest children, Emma Claire and Jack.

She also began visiting Web sites where other bereaved parents shared their pain and insight. In doing so, she came to understand the power of the Web to create communities and its use as an organizing tool.

His chief adviser

In her memoir, Ms. Edwards wrote that she decided she would not be a caricature of a campaign spouse. "There were a lot of ways to have this experience, but I only knew one, the one I had learned growing up - open up, let them in, and find out what we share," she wrote. "You didn't have to be perfect; you had to be open."


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