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Vice-president cited Irish-American mom's influence

The then Senator Joe Biden said: "My mother's creed is the American creed. No one is better than you."

Catherine Eugenia Finnegan was born into a middle-class Irish-American family in Scranton, Pa., in 1917. Her father, Ambrose Finnegan was a college quarterback at Santa Clara who returned to Scranton without graduating following the San Francisco Earthquake. He married Geraldine Blewitt, the daughter of Edward Blewitt, the city engineer and later a state senator. They had five children.

Finnegan, who worked in newspapers, moved his family to Green Ridge. It was, according to author Richard Ben Cramer, "a good neighborhood, not easy for an Irishman to buy there, not back then." They confirmed their status with a later move to South Washington Avenue.

In "What It Takes," his 1,050-page book about the presidential campaign of 1988, Cramer reported that the family was known for its passionate discussions about politics and the affairs of the day. "The Finnegans were all opinionated. A guest for dinner would get a fine feed, but at the same time, he'd better watch what he said. All his ideas were fair game: they'd take him apart," he wrote.

"Jean Finnegan was the homecoming queen, the object of a hundred boys' dreams," Cramer continued. "But all those dreams were dashed the minute Joseph Biden walked through the door, in his perfect suit, with his brilliant smile, his shining fingernails, his manners - so soft!"

In the early years of his marriage, Joseph Robinette Biden hitched his fortunes to a first cousin, Bill Sheen Jr., the son of a wealthy Irish-American businessman. However, a money-making plan they concocted together didn't work out and Biden lived with his Finnegan in-laws for the first decade of his marriage.

In 1953, he moved with his family to Wilmington, Del., where he became a successful used car salesman. He died in 2002.

Jean Biden is survived by her four children, 10 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

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