Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Barack Obama's grandmother Madelyn Dunham dies from cancer, aged 86

Barack Obama with his grandparents, Madelyn Payne Dunham and Stanley Armour Dunham in 1979 during his high school graduation
Barack Obama with his grandparents, Madelyn Payne Dunham and Stanley Armour Dunham in 1979 during his high school graduation
Obama with his grandparents in New York City. Stanley and Madelyn Dunham are seen visiting Obama who was a student at Columbia University in the 1980s
FILE ** This undated photo provided by the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shows Obama's maternal grandfather and grandmother, Stanley and Madelyn Payne Dunham in Cambridge, Mass., during World War II. (AP Photo/Obama Presidential Campaign) ** FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES **
** FILE ** This undated photo released by Obama for America shows Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama's father, also named Barack Obama, and mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. Barack Obama confronted the nation's racial divide head-on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 tackling both black grievance and white resentment in a bold effort to quiet a campaign uproar over race and his former pastor's incendiary statements. (AP Photo/Obama for America) ** NO SALES **
This photo provided by the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shows the Democratic presidential hopeful, Obama, on the beach with grandfather on his mother's side, Stanley Armour Dunham. (AP Photo/Obama Presidential Campaign) ** FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES**
** FILE ** In this 1970's black-and-white file photo provided by the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shows the presidential hopeful, Obama, 9, right, with his mother Ann Dunham, center, his Indonesian step-father Lolo Soetoro, and his less than one-year-old sister Maya Soetoro in Jakarta, Indonesia. For all their political differences, Obama and John McCain share a life-changing, though sharply different, personal experience: They both spent long stretches of their early lives in Asia, Obama as a boy in Indonesia, McCain as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Obama Presidential Campaign)
** FILE ** This 1960's photo provided by the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shows Obama with his mother Stanley Ann Dunham. The Kansas-born mother, the Kenyan-born father, Barack Obama Sr., met at the University of Hawaii. They married, and Barack, "blessed" in Arabic, was born on Aug. 4, 1961. (AP Photo/Obama Presidential Campaign) ** FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES **

Barack Obama's 86-year-old grandmother died today, the presidential front-runner said.

Mr Obama suspended his campaign for two days last month so he could travel to Hawaii to spend time with Madelyn Payne Dunham, who helped raise him, after her health deteriorated "to the point where her situation is very serious".

She died today, one day before he could become the first black president of the United States.

As he became the first African American presidential nominee of a major US political party, Mr Obama paid tribute to his grandmother.

"When I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman," he told his party's national convention in Denver, Colorado, in August.

"She's the one who taught me about hard work. 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.

"And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well."

In a campaign advert earlier this year, Mr Obama described his grandmother as the daughter of a Midwest oil company clerk who "taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland".

He said this included things like "accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses. Treating your neighbour as you'd like to be treated".

Mrs Dunham was also the "white grandmother" he referred to in a high-profile speech on race as he called for a "more perfect union" in the US.

Mrs Dunham died peacefully after a battle with cancer, Mr Obama said in a joint statement with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. 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. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.

"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."



The 47-year-old Illinois senator learned of her death this morning while he was campaigning in Jacksonville, Florida.

He plans to go ahead with campaign appearances.

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