Honolulu Madelyn Payne Dunham was the last of Barack Obama's relatives who had a hand in shepherding a would-be president. Dunham and her husband took in their fledgling pre-teen grandson more than three decades ago and raised him until he left the islands for college.
But just a day before the American people decide whether to elect him as the first black U.S. president, Obama learned the beloved white grandmother he called "Toot" had passed away.
Dunham, who helped raise Obama in the 10th-floor apartment where she died late Sunday night local time, was 86.
Obama announced the news from the campaign trail in Charlotte, N.C. The joint statement with his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng said Dunham died peacefully after a battle with cancer.
"She's gone home," Obama said as tens of thousands of rowdy supporters at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte grew silent in an evening drizzle.
"And she died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side. And so there is great joy as well as tears. I'm not going to talk about it too long because it is hard for me to talk about."
But he said he wanted people to know a little about her - that she lived through the Great Depression and World War II, working on a bomber assembly line with a baby at home and a husband serving his country. He said she was humble and plain spoken, one of the "quiet heroes that we have all across America" working hard and hoping to see their children and grandchildren thrive.
"That's what we're fighting for," Obama said.
Obama learned of Dunham's death Monday morning while he was campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla. The family said a private ceremony would be held later.
"So many of us were hoping and praying that his grandmother would have the opportunity to witness her grandson become our next president," said Hawaii state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, an Obama supporter. "What a bittersweet victory it will be for him. Wow."
Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, said Dunham died "knowing that (Obama) is leading and doing all he can to secure that win."