Monday, November 3, 2008

a woman worth remembering.

Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, who raised her grandson Barack Obama from age 10 to adulthood, died quietly in her Honolulu home on Sunday, November 2nd, at the age of 86.

Madelyn was born in Peru, Kansas, and grew up in Augusta, Kansas, the daughter of strict Methodist parents. She was one of the best students in her high-school graduating class of 1940 - the same year she wed Stanley Dunham, a Baptist boy from the proverbial "wrong side of the tracks" (a furniture salesman, it was rumored he could charm the legs off of a sofa), against her parents' wishes. The couple was married over 50 years, until Stanley's death in 1992.

During World War II, Stanley enlisted in the Army, while Madelyn worked on a Wichita-based Boeing B-29 assembly line. In 1970, she became one of America's first female bank vice presidents.

In-between, Madelyn gave birth to her only child, a daughter called Anne. Both of Anne's parents were dismayed by her marriage to a Kenyan graduate student, but accepted it - just as they embraced their half-white grandchildren, Barack Obama [above, with his grandparents] and Maya Soetoro (a younger daughter by a second marriage). While Anne and her second husband had to live overseas, Madelyn and Stanley welcomed Barack into their Hawai'ian home. And while Anne was dying of ovarian cancer in 1995, Madelyn cared for her in the same home during her final months.

Barack and Maya call her "Toot," an abbreviation of "tutu," the Hawai'ian word for grandmother. Here's what the Democratic Presidential nominee said about Toot on the Late Show with David Letterman in September:

"She has been the rock of our family, and she is sharp as a tack ... she just follows everything. But she has a very subdued, sort of Midwestern attitude about these things. So when I got nominated, she called and said, 'That's nice, Barry. That's nice.'"

Wishing the Obamas comfort and strength during this amazingly emotional time for their family ...

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