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How Joe Biden honored late wife and daughter on 48th anniversary of their deaths

The president-elect lost his first wife and 1-year-old daughter in a car crash in 1972.
/ Source: TODAY

A month before he will be inaugurated as the country's 46th president, Joe Biden marked the 48th anniversary of the deaths of his first wife and baby daughter.

Biden and his wife, Jill, visited the graves of his first wife, Neilia Biden, and their 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, on Dec. 18 in a Delaware cemetery. The mother and daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972 when a tractor-trailer struck their car while she was taking their children to pick out a Christmas tree.

Image: President-Elect Biden Visits Grave Of Deceased First Wife Neilia
President-elect Joe Biden arrives for a church service with Jill Biden at St. Joseph on the Brandywine on the anniversary of the deaths of his first wife, Neilia, and their daughter, Naomi. Joshua Roberts / Getty Images

On the anniversary of their deaths, the Bidens attended Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine, a Roman Catholic church, before visiting their graves in the cemetery on the campus of the church.

They were joined by his sister, Valerie Biden Owens, and their daughter and son-in-law, Ashley Biden and Howard Krein, in paying their respects.

The tragic 1972 accident occurred after Biden had just been elected to the Senate and was in Washington, D.C., setting up his new office.

Biden's sons, Hunter and Beau, were 3 and 4 at the time and were also seriously injured in the crash. Beau, a former attorney general of Delaware, died of brain cancer in 2015 at 46. He is buried in the same cemetery as Biden's first wife and daughter.

Senator-Elect Joseph Biden,Wife Neilia and Son
Joe Biden is shown with his first wife, Neilia, who died in a car accident in 1972, and their sons, Hunter and Beau, at Biden's 30th birthday celebration in Delaware.Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

The president-elect also visited their graves in November on the morning of Election Day, while accompanied by his granddaughter Natalie, Beau's only daughter. His wife and another granddaughter, Finnegan, also attended Mass with him.

Jill Biden, who has been married to Joe since 1977, spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August about entering his life in the wake of the tragedy.

“Joe always told the boys, ‘Mommy sent her to us,’” she recalled. “So we figured it out together.”

She also reflected on Beau's death, saying she wondered if she'd "ever smile or feel joy again" after losing him.

“Four days after Beau’s funeral, I watched Joe shave and put on his suit,” she said. “I watched him walk out into a world empty of our son. He went back to work. That’s just how he is.”