Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III the son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and known as Beau died Saturday night, after battling cancer for about two years. He left behind his wife and two kids but had a promising political career in Delaware.
In an unusually lengthy and emotional statement on Sunday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry, a longtime friend of the Biden family, eulogized Mr. Biden as a “class act, period, ingrained with integrity, compassion, a sense of moral obligation to help others, and especially people who were hurting.”
Mr. Kerry’s statement echoed the sense of deep sadness for the vice president that flowed through most of the reaction. The elder Mr. Biden lost his first wife and young daughter in a car crash in 1972, and now must lay his eldest son to rest.
Similar expressions came quickly from top Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, and Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate. Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state, each shared their anguish on Twitter.
“Hillary & I mourn the loss of Beau Biden — so full of life, love, honor, and service — and we pray for the strength of his wonderful family,” Bill Clinton wrote shortly after Mr. Biden’s death was announced by the vice president’s office Saturday night.
President Obama said in a statement Saturday that Mr. Biden had been a “good, big-hearted, devoutly Catholic and deeply faithful man.” On Sunday, out of respect for Mr. Biden’s family, the White House canceled a reception that Mr. Obama was scheduled to hold on behalf of Ford’s Theater.
The sense of grief came from Republicans, too. Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and a likely presidential hopeful, offered his prayers for the vice president and his family. Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, extended the family’s “deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers.”
Donald Trump offered condolences to the vice president for “the loss of his wonderful son, Beau. Met him once, great guy!” And Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, noted Mr. Biden’s service in the Iraq war and said she had enjoyed spending time with his family when she debated his father during that campaign.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,” Ms. Palin wrote, quoting the Bible’s Psalm 18:2. “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Celebrities, too, used Twitter to communicate their emotions, often directing their support to the vice president.
“My heart is broken 4 Vice President of the United States,” wrote Cher, the singer and actress. “The 1 thing I know about Joe is, He prizes family above all else.”
She ended her post with emoji pictures of a heart and two hands pressed together.
Mia Farrow, the actress, wrote: “So sad for the Biden family. Everyone loved Beau.”
The surge of reaction on Twitter was a virtual testament to the cheer and good will that the elder Mr. Biden has earned over decades in the public spotlight. Where some politicians earn reputations for playing hardball politics, Mr. Biden has long been seen as a kind of happy warrior, always smiling.
That seemed to make the loss harder to comprehend, according to many Twitter messages in the hours after the announcement of Mr. Biden’s death.
“Just awful for Mr. Biden to have 3 family losses so young. My heart is heavy for him,” one person wrote. Another said: “VP Biden is the epitome of family.” A third said: “No one should have to bury two children in their lifetime. My condolences and prayers to the Biden family.”
Many people on Twitter posted links to a graduation speech that the vice president gave at Yale University earlier this month. In it, Mr. Biden reflected at length about the tragedies that he had endured and the ways in which they made him stronger.
“Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever,” he said, describing the horror of finding out about the crash in 1972. He said he found redemption by focusing on his sons.
“I can remember my mother — a sweet lady — looking at me, after we left the hospital, and saying, ‘Joey, out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it,’” Mr. Biden told the Yale graduates. “She was right.”
Mr. Biden reflected on his decision to travel home to Delaware each night even as he served in the Senate. Some said it reflected a lack of ambition, he noted, an indication that he wasn’t really serious about success as a national politician.
“But looking back on it,” Mr. Biden said, “the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me.”
In his statement Sunday morning, Mr. Kerry quoted the vice president as once saying that after losing a loved-one “there is a black hole you feel in your chest, like you’re being sucked back into it.” But Mr. Kerry added that “Joe has also said there comes a day ‘when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.’”
“As usual,” Mr. Kerry wrote, “Joe said it better than anyone else could.”