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Elizabeth Edwards dies at age 61, surrounded by family [Updated]

December 7, 2010 |  3:01 pm

Elizabeth Edwards dead at 61 Elizabeth Edwards has died in North Carolina at age 61.

On Monday, Edwards had been given days to weeks to live, after enduring a long struggle with breast cancer that had metastasized. On Tuesday, she died.

"Today we have lost the comfort of Elizabeth's presence but she remains the heart of this family. We love her and will never know anyone more inspiring or full of life," the family said in a statement, released from their Chapel Hill, N.C., home.

"On behalf of Elizabeth we want to express our gratitude to the thousands of kindred spirits who moved and inspired her along the way. Your support and prayers touched our entire family."

[Updated, 3:30 p.m.: The White House released a statement from President Obama on Tuesday afternoon.:

"Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Elizabeth Edwards. This afternoon I spoke to Cate Edwards and John Edwards, and offered our family's condolences.  I came to know and admire Elizabeth over the course of the presidential campaign.  She was a tenacious advocate for fixing our healthcare system and fighting poverty, and our country has benefited from the voice she gave to the cause of building a society that lifts up all those left behind. 

"In her life, Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain.  Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up.  But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration.  Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends."]

Edwards had legally separated from college sweetheart and husband John Edwards in January after he admitted fathering a child with a campaign aide, but the two had not divorced.

[Updated, 3:37 p.m.:  "We have many wonderful memories of those days traveling the country and seeing firsthand Elizabeth's great affection for Cate, Jack and Emma Claire. Today all those moments are rushing back," Sen. John Kerry said in a statement. "The same day our campaign ended at Faneuil Hall, we saw Elizabeth head off to Mass General to confront this terrible disease.  America came to know her in a different and even more personal way, as she fought back with enormous grace and dignity."

Vice President Joe Biden also expressed his and wife Jill's sympathies to the Edwards family. "She was an inspiration to all who knew her," he said, "and to those who felt they knew her."]

Read the full Los Angeles Times obituary here, and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

RELATED:

Elizabeth Edwards' life: An interactive timeline

Near death, Elizabeth Edwards quits cancer treatment

'I've had it': Elizabeth and John Edwards legally separate

-- Matt Donnelly
Twitter.com/MattDonnelly

Photo: Elizabeth Edwards at September's "Stand Up 2 Cancer" event. Credit: Reuters

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