Six years after she was deemed cancer-free, Kara Kennedy accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of her father, just days before Sen. Edward Kennedy died while battling a brain tumor.
However, her own lung cancer treatment — surgery and grueling chemotherapy and radiation — left her physically weakened, her brother, Patrick Kennedy, said. She died Friday (Sept. 16, 2011) at age 51 after her daily workout at a Washington-area health club.
"Her heart gave out," said Patrick Kennedy, a former U.S. representative from Rhode Island.
"She's with dad."
She was a member of the Sport & Health fitness center, though spokeswoman Nancy Terry declined to release further details about the incident, citing member privacy.
Ms. Kennedy's ex-husband, Michael Allen, told the Associated Press: "Insofar as I'm concerned her legacy is one of courage and grit and determination in the face of her own illness and in the face of many family tragedies and limitless, absolutely limitless, devotion to our children."
Their children, Grace and Max, are now teenagers.
Kara Kennedy was born in 1960 to Edward and Joan Bennett Kennedy. The late senator wrote of his oldest child in his 2009 memoir, True Compass, that "I had never seen a more beautiful baby, nor been happier in my life."
Around the time she was born, her father was on the campaign trail for his brother, John F. Kennedy, during the presidential primaries. Years later, she and her brother, Edward Kennedy Jr., helped run their father's 1988 U.S. Senate campaign.
Ms. Kennedy, a graduate of Tufts University, also worked as a filmmaker and in television. She helped produce several videos for Very Special Arts, an organization founded by her aunt, Jean Kennedy Smith. She also served as a board member for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute; and director emerita and national trustee of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.