Bob Dole, the longtime lawmaker and shepherd of the Republican Party, died in his sleep at the age of 98. Dole’s death was confirmed by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in a statement Sunday.
“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep,” the foundation said. “At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”
In February, Dole revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and said he was starting treatment.
A former Senate majority leader and the 1996 Republican nominee for president, the native of Russell, Kansas, championed everything from reforming the federal food stamp program to bringing awareness to disabilities. Senator Dole was also a chief advocate for Congress’ re-affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
Before his career in politics, Dole served in the United States Army. He joined the United States Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1942 to fight in World War II. He became a second lieutenant in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. In April 1945, while engaged in combat near Castel d’Aiano in the Apennine mountains southwest of Bologna, Italy, Dole was seriously wounded by a German shell, being struck in his upper back and right arm, shattering his collarbone and part of his spine.
“I lay face down in the dirt,” Dole said. “I could not see or move my arms. I thought they were missing.”
Dole was paralyzed from the neck down and transported to a military hospital near Kansas, expected to die. Suffering blood clots, a life-threatening infection and a fever of almost 109 degrees; after large doses of penicillin were not successful, he overcame the infection with the administration of streptomycin, which at the time was still an experimental drug.
He remained despondent, “not ready to accept the fact that my life would be changed forever”. He was encouraged to see Hampar Kelikian, an orthopedist in Chicago who had been working with veterans returning from war. Although during their first meeting Kelikian told Dole that he would never be able to recover fully, the encounter changed Dole’s outlook on life, who years later wrote of Kelikian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, “Kelikian inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it, rather than complaining what had been lost.” Dr. K, as Dole later came to affectionately call him, operated on him seven times, free of charge, and had, in Dole’s words, “an impact on my life second only to my family”.
Dole recovered from his wounds at the Percy Jones Army Hospital. This complex of federal buildings, no longer a hospital, is now named Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in honor of three patients who became United States Senators: Dole, Philip Hart and Daniel Inouye.
Dole was decorated three times, receiving two Purple Hearts for his injuries, and the Bronze Star with “V” Device for valor for his attempt to assist a downed radioman. The injuries left him with limited mobility in his right arm and numbness in his left arm. He minimizes the effect in public by keeping a pen in his right hand, and learned to write with his left hand.
In 2019, the Republic of Armenia, bestowed the “Order of Honor” on Senator Dole for his considerable contribution to the development and enhancement of the friendly relations between Armenian and the USA.
“The historic achievements of Bob Dole are long and plentiful, and he’s probably one of the most liked U.S. Senators in American history. Bob Dole made history in 1991, when he championed the Armenian Genocide recognition resolution and the first ever debate on the genocide in that chamber. It was that precedent that he made 30 years ago that set the stage for the history we made in 2019-2020 when the Armenian American community finally saw their US Congress pass Armenian Genocide recognition resolutions. Bob Dole will always be revered for his tenacity, courage, and humor. We send our heartfelt condolences to Elizabeth and his entire family for all of their sacrifices, service, and for letting us all get to know Bob Dole.” stated Armenian Council of America’s Washington DC Representative Taniel Koushakjian.
The Armenian Council of America is committed to promoting the civic and civil rights interests of the Armenian American community. ACA also aims to strengthen U.S. – Armenia and U.S. – Artsakh ties, the development of programs promoting sustainable economic growth and good governance in Armenia, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship.