Archive for Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama’s grandmother dies just before election

November 3, 2008


— Barack Obama's grandmother, whose personality and bearing shaped much of the life of the Democratic presidential contender, has died, Obama announced Monday, one day before the election. Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86.

Obama announced the news from the campaign trail in Charlotte, N.C. The joint statement with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng said Dunham died peacefully late Sunday night after a battle with cancer.

They said: "She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances."

Obama learned of her death Monday morning while he was campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla. He planned to go ahead with campaign appearances.

The family said a private ceremony would be held later.

Last month, Obama took a break from campaigning and flew to Hawaii to be with Dunham as her health declined.

Obama said the decision to go to Hawaii was easy to make, telling CBS that he "got there too late" when his mother died of ovarian cancer in 1995 at 53, and wanted to make sure "that I don't make the same mistake twice."

The Kansas-born Dunham and her husband, Stanley, raised their grandson for several years so he could attend school in Honolulu while their daughter and her second husband lived overseas. Her influence on Obama's manner and the way he viewed the world was substantial, the candidate himself told millions watching him accept his party's nomination in Denver in August.

"She's the one who taught me about hard work," he said. "She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me."

Obama's nickname for his grandmother was "Toot," a version of the Hawaiian word for grandmother, tutu. Many of his speeches describe her working on a bomber assembly line during World War II.

Madelyn and Stanley Dunham married in 1940, a few weeks before she graduated from high school. Their daughter, Stanley Ann, was born in 1942. After several moves to and from California, Texas, Washington and Kansas, Stanley Dunham's job landed the family in Hawaii.

It was there that Stanley Ann later met and fell in love with Obama's father, a Kenyan named Barack Hussein Obama Sr. They had met in Russian class at the University of Hawaii. Their son was born in August 1961, but the marriage didn't last long. She later married an Indonesian, Lolo Soetoro, another university student she met in Hawaii.

Obama moved to Indonesia with his mother and stepfather at age 6. But in 1971, her mother sent him back to Hawaii to live with her parents. He stayed with the Dunhams until he graduated from high school in 1979.

In his autobiography, Obama wrote fondly of playing basketball on a court below his grandparents' 10th-floor Honolulu apartment, and looking up to see his grandmother watching.

It was the same apartment Obama visited on annual holiday trips to Hawaii, a weeklong vacation from his campaign in August, and his pre-election visit in October. Family members said his grandmother could not travel because of her health.

Madelyn Dunham, who took university classes but to her chagrin never earned a degree, nonetheless rose from a secretarial job at the Bank of Hawaii to become one of the state's first female bank vice presidents.

"Every morning, she woke up at 5 a.m. and changed from the frowsy muumuus she wore around the apartment into a tailored suit and high-heeled pumps," Obama wrote.

After her health took a turn for the worse, her brother said on Oct. 21 that she had already lived long enough to see her "Barry" achieve what she'd wanted for him.

"I think she thinks she was important in raising a fine young man," Charles Payne, 83, said in a brief telephone interview from his Chicago home. "I doubt if it would occur to her that he would go this far this fast. But she's enjoyed watching it."

Stanley Dunham died in 1992, while Obama's mother died in 1995. His father is also deceased.

When Obama was young, he and his grandmother toured the United States by Greyhound bus, stopping at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, Disneyland and Chicago, where Obama would years later settle.

It was an incident during his teenage years that became one of Obama's most vivid memories of Toot. She had been aggressively panhandled by a man and she wanted her husband to take her to work. When Obama asked why, his grandfather said Madelyn Dunham was bothered because the panhandler was black.

The words hit the biracial Obama "like a fist in my stomach," he wrote later. He was sure his grandparents loved him deeply. "And yet," he added, "I knew that men who might easily have been my brothers could still inspire their rawest fears."

Obama referred to the incident again when he addressed race in a speech in March during a controversy over his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother," he said.

Dunham was "a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world but who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her on the street."

Still, much of who Obama is comes from his grandmother, said his half sister.

"From our grandmother, he gets his pragmatism, his levelheadedness, his ability to stay centered in the eye of the story," she told The Associated Press. "His sensible, no-nonsense (side) is inherited from her."

Madelyn Lee Payne was born to Rolla and Leona Payne in October, 1922, in Peru, Kan., but lived much of her childhood in nearby Augusta.

She was the oldest of four children, and she loved to read everything from James Hilton's "Lost Horizon" to Agatha Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd."

Dunham and her husband were "vicious" bridge players, according to her brother Jack. After retirement, the two of them would take island cruises and do little but play bridge and a more difficult version called duplicate bridge.


Puff_Dragon 9 years, 7 months ago

We don't have the whole picture yet. "low-flite" hasn't jumped on and spewed all kinds of 'the righteous' , I'm a wanna-be' yet. Just sittin' back eatin' twinkies and suckin on a coke. Gonna' take the LPD test soon tho'.

coneflower 9 years, 7 months ago

"If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much." -- Jackie KennedyThat's for Toot and Anne. Thank you for Barack.

coneflower 9 years, 7 months ago

Tom Shewmom:See my Jackie Kennedy quote. One of the candidates might want to take note of that.

Ragingbear 9 years, 7 months ago

Inatux, get Firefox with Adblock Plus installed on it. Add the following line to your adblock filter. This will remove the comments section for

bad_dog 9 years, 7 months ago

It's hard to believe anyone feels the need to speak ill of Ms. Dunham. Instant karma's gonna get you, oh yeah...

Boeing 9 years, 7 months ago

My thoughts with the family. Though I don't like him, I think Obama will win, and I wish she could see her grandson become the first minority President...what pride she surely would have had.

inatux 9 years, 7 months ago

I wish I could read without the comments, or without even being tempted to read the comments.Why isn't there a way to turn disrespectful trash talk off completely? Can't I just read the news online without the comments?

allateup 9 years, 7 months ago just said it...take note that it didn't take a right wing extremist to say it but you sure did!

Danimal 9 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like his grandmother was a great woman, probably has more to do with shaping Barack than anyone else. I'm not voting for him and I detest his redistributive politics, but I am empathetic with his loss.Here's a quick aside, when are spell-checks going to stop hitting "Barack" and "Obama" as misspellings

dontcallmedan 9 years, 7 months ago

Tuna, about a little respect.. And maybe some respect for the thousands of unnamed grannies in Iraq that most certainly would be alive now, in November 2008, if not for Bush/ McCain's needless war.

jaywalker 9 years, 7 months ago

Condolences to the Obama family. It's a shame she won't be able to bask in the history of tomorrow. Take one to know one, edjay? Soo many idiots, sooooo little patience.

LiberalDude 9 years, 7 months ago

(ignoring rantor's sick attempt at humor)

calvin 9 years, 7 months ago

Though I am not a fan of Obama as president I do think he is a good man (who I might vote for in 2012) and my condolences to him at this sad time.

raiderssb 9 years, 7 months ago

At this historic time, it is such a shame she couldn't have lived to see her wonderful grandson become our President. To you nay sayers - you live under a rock - go back there. Tomorrow he will win - absolutely, and it will be by a sizable margin. There is no way that old man, and the dingbat, will pull off a win. Thank goodness.

LiberalDude 9 years, 7 months ago

"I find it very odd that Obama waited until today to announce that his grandmother died"She died today!!! Should have he announced it before it happened? She died in the early morning in Hawaii (6 hour time zone difference) which was late morning where Obama was.

Matt Schwartz 9 years, 7 months ago

it's interesting how different parts of the world are in obamas corner...whether or not it's the right choice, we've got bush to thank for it.

LiberalDude 9 years, 7 months ago

The first two comments by tunahelper and skinny are very disrespectful. Why can't you just state that this is sad and take your political opinions to a different thread. Whether Obama wins or loses it is so sad that his grandma passed away the day before the biggest moment of his life.

texburgh 9 years, 7 months ago

So sad that the extremists on the right - like tunahelper and skinny - are so filled with bile that they can't even show respect at the passing of this man's grandmother.I can only imagine their outrage had I made a similar comment if a member of the McCain or Palin family had passed.This is what too much of politics had de-evolved into.They should be ashamed. Unfortunately I think they may be shameless.

skinny 9 years, 7 months ago

My Condolences but I agree, he is going to lose anyway

areyouserious 9 years, 7 months ago

I find it very odd that Obama waited until today to announce that his grandmother died (and why does he get to announce it?? Where is the media at on this?).................its quite obvious that he is using this as another campaign sympathy angle.................He's still a wanker!

Christine Anderson 9 years, 7 months ago

Okay here. I do not want Obama to become president. But people, at a time when the man's grandmother has just died, how we feel about his politics should be a separate issue. I'm sure anyone who has ever been close to a grandparent and lost them can relate.Perhaps he waited most of the day before announcing her death in order to compose himself.

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

Yes, the classless diversion manuever. Available for all shapes, sizes, and persuasions.

kujayhawk7476 9 years, 7 months ago

Sad? yes. But her death doesn't change the fact that her grandson, an Arabic, descendent of slave owners is still an empty suit, who hides his real identity from the American voters and lacks the partriotism to be Commander in Chief. Some of whom are following him blindly into disaster after disaster.

AjiDeGallina 9 years, 7 months ago

Areyouserious,Are you ignorant?A, she died today.B. Obama's sister actually presented the first press release according to the wiresBut do not let facts get in your way, we all know you to be off kilter, so do not change anything now.

Confrontation 9 years, 7 months ago

And the 2 racist pigs showed up at 10:17pm and 10:21pm.

ridinghood 9 years, 7 months ago

very sad. Will be a day of mixed emotions for him tomorrow. Post here on Wednesday, Tuna. Will love to hear what you have to say after he is elected. Very historic day for America. I can't wait.

Pete Kennamore 9 years, 7 months ago

While not a Obama supporter, I think it is tragic that she didn't live to see her grandson elected President (the likely outcome tomorrow). My condolences Mr. ObamaElrond

Frank Smith 9 years, 7 months ago

This blog hasn't seen the worst of the comments. I got one from California that stated his grandmother was murdered because she was a hindrance to his candidacy. She, who has been living in the same apartment for at least three decades, was said by those nutcases to be an embarassment because she was "too rich." The Republican party has just filed an FEC complaint against Obama because he took his campaign plane, along with staff, aides, secret service and probably reporters, to visit with her as she was dying. They complain that it was not a legitimate campaign expense. Meanwhile Bush and Cheney fly all over the country, including to Kansas, to do fundraisers for candidates at taxpayer expense. It costs about $75,000 an hour to operate Air Force 1 and 2.

AjiDeGallina 9 years, 7 months ago

b3, tunahelper and skinny are the very example of what is wrong with America.They have failed our country and shamed their family names.

rockchalkjayhawk4life 9 years, 7 months ago

God Bless you and your family. It sounds like his grandmother was a great factor in his life.

ksdivakat 9 years, 7 months ago just showed your ignorance by calling all christians uneducated. perhaps you should get some education yourself! And this country does need people who oppose the left wing nuts, as if we were not here, it wouldnt be a presidency that we would be deciding, the dictator in place would make the rules...get a life and stop bashing people at this time of this mans grief, my condolences to the obama family for the loss of his grandmother.

scienceofsleep 9 years, 7 months ago

Be Obama's family or McCain's family you should still show your respect. It is trashy to state your political opinions on a thread like this.

AjiDeGallina 9 years, 7 months ago

I feel a lot of right wing extremist getting ready to explode today.

kidicarus 9 years, 7 months ago

I think the LJ World should do a reader vote:Is Tom Shewmon insane? Yes NoThat way he can see his standing among fellow readers.

pancho_villa 9 years, 7 months ago

unpalinized (Anonymous) says: I hope all the uneducated bible beaters who vote for mcpalin will move enmasse out of the USA. We don't need em. They only impede the advancement.The advancement? Thank you for showing your true Marxist colors. It is always amusing that when cornered, liberals posting to this site say either (1) that they are going to pick up their toys and go home, or (2) that they want to drive the conservatives out. Way to reach across the aisle. _________kidicarus (Anonymous) says: You are now making maturity assessments? Classic.Ah yes, like the highly educated cousin unpalinized, kidi is judge of all things mature. Congratulations on the culmination (termination?) today of your 2-year strategy of name-calling and campaigning against W. Nobody can ever call you uneducated or immature again, by golly, you are now the kings and queens of the kindergarten room! Ah yes, the smart, mature guys are ready to be back in charge, and send those illiterate conservatives and their silly notions of a nation created under God packing. Those silly Bible thumpers, who do they think they are anyway.........

BigAl 9 years, 7 months ago

Not kidding Tom. You've got your head buried so far up FOX news you can't see daylight. Sean Hannity is so full of hate he has become just another pathetic spokesman for the far-right. People like him and Ann Coulter (both Fox news contributors) spew nothing but hate towards this country and their fellow man.

kidicarus 9 years, 7 months ago

When have I ever written something hateful about Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin's family? I haven't. You, on the other hand, are about as offensive as it gets. Also, not far-left here. I suspect you accuse anyone who disagrees with you on any issue of being a far-left lunatic. Rational you are not, Tom. Now, why don't we take the political discussion to another thread, as this story is about someone's grandma dying.

kidicarus 9 years, 7 months ago

Tom -The vast majority of the posters and readers on this site (and probably those who meet you in everyday life) think you are the joke, buddy. My thoughts are with Obama and his family - it'll be a bittersweet night for them. Losing a loved one is tough, no matter what your political affiliation. Have some respect, Tom.

BigAl 9 years, 7 months ago

It is time to get on with healing our country from the harm caused by FOX news, talk radio, the internet and Bushco. Hopefully, this is all coming to an end. The hate and divisiveness spread and encouraged by the far-right has to stop. Again, add me to the list of veterans voting for Obama.

kidicarus 9 years, 7 months ago

"DonQuipunch (Anonymous) says:Does she get seventy virgins too?"Your screenname is Donkey Punch. You posted this above. You are now making maturity assessments? Classic.

tolawdjk 9 years, 7 months ago

unpalinized quoth: "God is a lie. If you choose to believe in that 2000 year old lie then it is you who are stupid. Bring America into the modern world. Europe is 85% athiest and they have better health care:.gee:."No one is going to accuse of you being one of the intelligencia at least, unpalinized. Correlating atheism to European healthcare is about as logical as saying "fall leaves are brown, gas is less than $2.00 a gallon....gee."

Melinda Black 9 years, 7 months ago

My sincerest condolences go out to the family. It is sad thing to lose a grandmother. We sure do make good people here in Kansas and Madelyn Payne Dunham was definitely one of them. Rest in peace ma'am.

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