Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and George McGovern at his 90th birthday party at the Newseum in July. (Alfredo Flores/World Food Program USA)

Was the always glass-half-full politician putting up a brave front?

Doesn’t appear so. McGovern stayed active until the end — two weeks ago, he narrated Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra— and his decline was very sudden. “A lot of people were very surprised, including his own family,” family spokesman Steve Hildebrand told us Monday. Doctors, he said, ruled out a stroke or heart disease; the cause of death will be listed as fragility. Rep. Jim McGovern (no relation) hosted the birthday party and will speak at the funeral in Sioux Falls Friday. McGovern will return to Washington one last time — he’ll be buried in Rock Creek Cemetery next to his late wife, Eleanor.

Obituary: George S. McGovern, Democratic nominee who lost to Nixon in ‘72, dies at 90

Also: Bob Dole on George McGovern

The Fix: George McGovern’s 5 most memorable moments

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