When I first told my Uncle Ted that I was engaged, he asked without hesitation, "Is she a Democrat?" He was only half joking. It's not that Theodore C. Sorensen, my father's brother and the man known as the "intellectual blood bank" of President John F. Kennedy, was an ideologue; he merely believed to his core that the vision of his party was crucial to the future of his family, his country and his world. And well he should it was he, through his collaboration with Kennedy, who most elegantly and timelessly gave voice to the Democratic ideals that have come to shape modern American politics.
The last of the Kennedy old guard, Sorensen was a tireless defender of Kennedy's legacy. Never, privately or publicly in the years since, did he take credit for the words or actions that made the 35th President an icon of the office. The many accounts of his intimacy with the political, personal and policy decisions of Kennedy's tenure are a testament both to the humility of the man and his unwavering belief that what he accomplished was far more than professional triumph.
A native of Lincoln, Neb., Sorensen evinced a Midwestern sensibility, a unitarian compassion and an unmatched, razor-sharp wit. He was as warm and strongheaded and funny as any other Sorensen. It is not every man who has his words echo in history. One who not only advocated but lived benevolence, equality and public service for 82 years is especially deserving. Surrounded by his family, Sorensen passed away Sunday. His was truly a life well lived, and it will undoubtedly be one well remembered.
Adam Sorensen is an associate editor at TIME.com. He covers politics.