WASHINGTON — Kara Kennedy, the oldest child of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, died at a Washington-area health club, her brother said Saturday. She was 51.
Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island, said his sister died Friday.
"She's with dad," Patrick Kennedy said. Their father died in 2009 at age 77 after battling a brain tumor.
Kara Kennedy had herself battled lung cancer: In 2003, doctors removed a malignant tumor. Patrick Kennedy said that his sister loved to exercise, but that he thinks her cancer treatment "took quite a toll on her and weakened her physically."
"Her heart gave out," he said.
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate said in a news release that Kara Kennedy died after her daily workout. The statement said Kennedy, a board member for the institute, was a filmmaker and television producer who produced several videos for Very Special Arts, an organization founded by her aunt Jean Kennedy Smith.
She also served as a director emerita and national trustee of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Kara Kennedy was the oldest of three children. She and her brother Edward Kennedy Jr. helped run their father's U.S. Senate campaign in 1988. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome lists her as a national advisory board member on its website.
Edward Kennedy Jr. himself was a survivor after losing a leg to bone cancer as a child. And Patrick Kennedy had surgery in 1988 to remove a non-cancerous tumor that was pressing against his spine.
In 1990, Kara Kennedy married Michael Allen. The couple had a son and daughter, both now in their teens.
Kara Kennedy was born in 1960 as her father campaigned for his brother, John F. Kennedy, during the presidential primaries.
The late senator wrote in his 2009 memoir, "True Compass," that "I had never seen a more beautiful baby, nor been happier in my life."
She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002 and was given a grim prognosis by doctors, her father wrote.
In the book, Edward Kennedy recalled her operation, along with her aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"Kara responded to my exhortations to have faith in herself," he wrote. "Today, nearly seven years later as I write this, Kara is a healthy, vibrant, active mother of two who is flourishing."