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U.S. Sen. John McCain had a long and storied public political career, but he was also a father to seven children and was fiercely protective of his family’s privacy.
On Friday, it was his family who announced that Arizona’s senior senator would discontinue medical treatment for glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer.
McCain died Saturday at age 81.
“Our family is immensely grateful for the support and kindness of all his caregivers over the last year, and for the continuing outpouring of concern and affection,” the statement on Friday read in part.
McCain’s children, all adults now, are from two marriages. More than three decades span between the oldest and the youngest.
Throughout his political career, interviews with the McCains have characterized John as the silly one with his kids.
John McCain’s first marriage, in Florida
In 1965, while McCain was still in the U.S. Navy, he married model Carol Shepp in Philadelphia. He adopted her two school-age sons from a previous marriage, Doug and Andrew, and in 1966 they had a daughter, Sidney.
Just a year later, as the McCains were building their new family in Florida, he was pulled away, sent as a bomber pilot on an aircraft carrier to fight in the Vietnam War.
He was shot down over Vietnam on Oct. 26, 1967, captured and kept away from his life, his country and his family for almost six years.
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A second chapter in Arizona
In 1979, while he was attending a military reception in Hawaii, John met a glamorous former cheerleader, Cindy Hensley.
Hensley was an heiress to a Phoenix beer distributorship and 17 years younger than John, though neither knew it at the time.
“Schmaltzy as it sounds, it was love at first sight, and so we started dating,” McCain told King.
Less than a year after John and Cindy met, he sought to divorce Carol. A month after their marriage was dissolved, he married Cindy in Phoenix in 1980. None of his children attended the wedding.
John and Cindy make disciplined parents
John often credited Cindy with raising their children while his career kept him away.
“My mother was the one doing the heavy lifting of child rearing,” Jack told The Arizona Republic in January.
She was the enforcer, ensuring that the kids watched TV only on weekends and received allowances if their “chore chart” was completed, according to a 2008 People magazine profile.
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A premium on privacy
McCain told the New York Times in 2007 that his desire to deflect attention from his family was “intentional.”
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The youngest of Carol’s sons, 56-year-old Andy also chose to follow a path deeply intwined with his adopted father’s life, though in a distinctly different way from his brother’s.
Like all three children from McCain’s first marriage, Andy had a strained start with his stepmother Cindy (neither Doug, Andy, nor Sidney reportedly attended the couple’s 1980 wedding ceremony), but the two evidently developed close ties over the years. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and MBA from Vanderbilt, Andy started working for Hensley Beverage Company, a beverage distributorship in association with Anheuser-Busch. The company was founded in 1955 by Cindy’s father, Jim Hensely; Andy has served as an executive there for many years.
john mccain children’s names
How John McCain’s Children Were Shaped by His Political Career
There’s an old adage about running for office: when a person runs, their whole family runs along with them. And yet, in an era where the private is increasingly public, John McCain managed to keep his family life largely out of the spotlight.
Though his own actions were very much in the public sphere, the late Senator, who passed away on Saturday after a prolonged battle with brain cancer, eschewed calling attention to his family or sharing tidbits of their personal lives. It was a particularly impressive feat, considering that his brood included seven children born across four decades.
John McCain married his first wife, Carol, in 1965. She was, at the time, a single mother of two boys and would within their first year of marriage give birth to a daughter as well. Their life as a young family was cut short in 1967 when McCain, a Navy pilot, was shot down over Vietnam and held there as a prisoner of war. Carol took on the job of raising her three children on her own, finally welcoming McCain home when he was released in 1973.
However, the years and traumas had taken a toll on their marriage. “As dad progressed, he was gone a lot, doing a lot of international travel, and it was putting a little stress on the marriage,” their son Andy recalled in the documentary John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls. In 1979, McCain met Cindy, who would become his second wife a scant six weeks after his divorce from Carol was finalized. “I was pretty much blindsided and it broke my heart,” Carol said in the documentary.
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The eldest of McCain’s children, Doug, 58, was the first of Carol McCain’s two sons from her first marriage. After wedding Carol, McCain quickly adopted Doug and his younger brother, Andy. Though McCain was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and held there as a prisoner of war until 1973, it’s obvious that his service made a serious impression on his oldest son. Like his father, Doug would go on to become a pilot in the Navy and now serves as a captain for American Airlines, a company that shared a moving tribute to the late Senator.
who is john mccain’s son
The courtship between McCain and his second wife was brief. At the time, she was working a special education teacher in Arizona and happened be invited to a reception that McCain was attending. “He introduced himself to me and I just didn’t know what to expect,” Cindy stated in the documentary. “What I saw was this incredible human being that was a lot of fun to be around.”
Within a year of meeting, the 43 year old McCain would propose 25 year old Cindy. “I really didn’t think he’d propose,” Cindy said. “He was older. I knew he cared very deeply for me. I did know that.”
James “Jimmy” McCain
The youngest of the McCain boys, Jimmy, 30, also followed in his father’s footsteps by enlisting for military service. Rather than training as a pilot, though, Jimmy chose to serve as a Marine, including a tour in Iraq when he was 19.