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Decorated senator and World War II hero Bob Dole dies at 98

Bob Dole served in Congress for decades. He passed away Sunday morning at the age of 98.

Former United States senator and World War II hero Robert J. Dole passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 98.

A statement from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation confirmed that the former senator from Kansas passed away in his sleep.

"At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years," continued the statement.

The foundation said that details about "memorial events" would be shared at a later time.

Bob Dole
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole in 2018. Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images

In February, Dole said that he was seeking treatment for stage 4 lung cancer.

Dole served overseas during World War II, until a severe accident left him temporarily paralyzed. Dole was awarded two Purple Hearts and two awards of the Bronze Star; after intense therapy, he regained much of his movement but was permanently disabled. After leaving the army, he earned a law degree and ran for public office.

Dole first entered Congress in 1961, where he served in the House of Representatives until 1969. He then served as a senator for the state of Kansas until 1996, including several terms as the United States Senate Majority Leader.

Dole was married twice: First to Phyllis Holden, who he had one child with and divorced in 1972, and then to Elizabeth Hanford, who he wed in 1975.

Bob Dole and Elizabeth Dole
Bob and Elizabeth Dole. David Ake / AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth Dole was also a public servant and eventually served as a senator for North Carolina, becoming the state's first female senator. She also served as the nation's Secretary of Labor from 1989 to 1990.

Elizabeth Dole told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie in 2019 that she fell in love with her husband because of his passion for making a difference in the world.

“I love his compassionate heart. And the fact that he loved to feel that each day he could make a difference for at least one person in need,” she said. “And I loved the fact that he had such a great sense of humor.”

Dole made several attempts at the White House: He was President Gerald Ford's vice presidential candidate in the 1976 election, but Ford lost his bid for a second term. Dole went on to unsuccessfully seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 and 1988. In 1996, Dole secured the Republican nomination and ran for president, but lost to Bill Clinton.

Shortly after losing the 1996 presidential election, Dole helped establish the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, where he attended school before joining the army during World War II. The institute catalogued Dole's work from decades of public service, making it home to one of the largest Congressional archives in the country.

In 2018, Dole was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress. Dole, one of just eight senators to ever earn the medal, said he was "extremely honored" by the award.