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McCain’s First Wife, Carol, Says She Will Be Attending Naval Academy Memorial Service

A wooden spike marks the spot where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will be buried on the grounds of the U.S. Navel Academy in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Laurie Kellman)

WASHINGTON – Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain’s first wife, Carol McCain, will attend Sunday’s memorial service for the late senator at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Md., PJM has learned.

McCain, 81, did not attend the Thursday memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Arizona, which was broadcast live and featured a handful of tributes including from former Vice President Joe Biden and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. She said she is also not going to attend Saturday’s service at the Washington National Cathedral, which is open to select media outlets. McCain confirmed with PJM by phone on Friday that she plans to attend the Sunday service.

“I’m going to be in Annapolis on Sunday at the chapel,” she said.

McCain would not say if she was invited to either of the services in Arizona or Washington.

“I don’t want to answer that,” said McCain, who is retired and living in Virginia Beach, Va.

She did not specify who had invited her to the Sunday service and she declined to provide any statement on Sen. McCain’s passing. It is unknown if McCain is formally participating in the ceremony. Gen. David Petraeus is scheduled to speak at the memorial being attended by close friends and family, and pallbearers will include fellow former POWs, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Sen. McCain, the former Armed Services Committee chairman who planned his own memorial services before his death Aug. 25, will be buried at the Naval Academy cemetery next to Adm. Chuck Larson, his academy classmate and longtime friend who passed away in 2014. Larson led U.S. Pacific Command and was twice superintendent of the Naval Academy.

Sunday’s ceremony in Annapolis may be the only memorial service out of the three not being broadcast; local media reported it’s uncertain if any portion will be televised. Carol McCain has two children, Douglas and Andrew, from her first marriage to Alasdair E. Swanson, whom she met at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. She first met Sen. McCain, a classmate of Swanson, there as well. She divorced Swanson in 1964.

Sen. McCain adopted her two children after the couple married in 1965 and a year later they had their only child together: Sidney, who is scheduled to read 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 at the Washington National Cathedral ceremony on Saturday. Douglas and Andrew are expected to attend as well. All of the McCain children attended the service in Arizona and the Friday memorial at the U.S. Capitol.

When Sen. McCain returned home from Vietnam in 1973 after being captured and held as a prisoner of war for five years, he found out about a car accident Carol had three years earlier that left her badly injured. He met Cindy Hensley while still married to Carol and reportedly started dating her before their formal divorce in 1980. That same year, Sen. McCain married Cindy, who was 17 years younger, although the couple did not know each other’s real ages when they applied for a marriage certificate.

Cindy McCain, who is reportedly on the short list to fill her husband’s Senate seat, told L.A. radio host Ryan Seacrest in 2008, “In Arizona, when you apply for a marriage license, it’s published in the newspaper. Of course when they published the application we both found out together our true ages … It didn’t matter anyway. I felt like he wouldn’t be interested in someone as young as me – and he felt I wouldn’t be interested in someone that was older like he was … And it’s been a funny joke for our kids ever since.”

In 2008, while John McCain was running for president, Carol McCain told the Daily Mail, “My accident is well recorded. I had 23 operations, I am five inches shorter than I used to be and I was in hospital for six months. It was just awful, but it wasn’t the reason for my divorce.” She added, “My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens… it just does.”

“He’s a good guy,” she told the reporter, who noted that Carol supported his campaign. “We are still good friends.”

After the divorce was finalized, Carol McCain served as director of the White House Visitor Center under President Ronald Reagan and was in charge of organizing events such as the annual Easter Egg Roll and White House Fourth of July ceremony. She discussed her role at the White House extensively on C-SPAN in November 1982.