A little more than a week after Senator Barack Obama suspended his campaign to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii, it was announced today that she has died. She was 86.
Just one day away from potentially seeing her grandson become president of the United States, Madelyn Dunham died peacefully. She helped raise Obama from the age of 10 until he left to attend college, while his mother worked in Indonesia, and was considered the cornerstone of their family.
Here’s a statement from Obama and his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng:
“Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer.”
Obama learned of her death while campaigning today in Jacksonville, Florida, and plans to continue with his schedule. The senator unfortunately didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to his own mother, who also died of cancer in 1995.
Born Madelyn Payne in Peru, Kansas, Dunham married Stanley Armour Dunham in 1940. She attended college at the University of Washington before becoming an aircraft inspector for Boeing during World War II. Their only child, Ann, was born in 1942. The Dunhams moved their family to Hawaii in the early 1960’s.
Dunham was a trailblazer in her own right, becoming one of the first female vice-presidents of the Bank of Hawaii. Obama made reference to her in many of his speeches, often pointing out her willingness to sacrifice for her family and incredible work ethic. “Toot” as he used to call her-short for “tutu,” the Hawaiian word for grandmother-enjoyed playing bridge and watching her grandson on CNN every day.