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US: Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, dies at 86

May 31, 2024
Photo: M. Spencer Green/AP via CNN Newsource

(CNN) — Marian Robinson, the mother of former first lady Michelle Obama, has died, according to a statement from the Obama and Robinson families. She was 86.

“As a sister, aunt, cousin, neighbor, and friend to so many, she was beloved beyond words by countless others whose lives were improved by her presence,” the statement from Barack and Michelle Obama, Craig and Kelly Robinson, and their children said in part.

“She passed peacefully this morning, and right now, none of us are quite sure how exactly we’ll move on without her,” the statement said.

Michelle Obama posted on social media, “My mom Marian Robinson was my rock, always there for whatever I needed. She was the same steady backstop for our entire family, and we are heartbroken to share she passed away today.”

“There was and will be only one Marian Robinson. In our sadness, we are lifted up by the extraordinary gift of her life. And we will spend the rest of ours trying to live up to her example,” Barack Obama wrote on X.

Robinson lived with the Obamas during their time at the White House and was often spotted at events with the first family, including handing out goodie bags to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

“We needed her. The girls needed her,” the family’s statement said of her move to Washington. “And she ended up being our rock through it all.”

A native of Chicago – where she returned after the Obamas left the White House – Robinson was married to Fraser Robinson, and the pair had two children, Michelle and Craig. Fraser Robinson died in 1991 after a long struggle with multiple sclerosis.

Marian Robinson was heavily involved in her kids’ education, according to the statement. The family recalled Robinson as having taught “her children to read at an early age, sitting together as they sounded out words on a page, giving them the strength and confidence to walk to school.” They also highlighted her presence in a historic moment.

“On Election Night in 2008, when the news broke that Barack would soon shoulder the weight of the world, she was there, holding his hand,” the statement read.

David Axelrod, former Obama senior adviser, remembered Robinson as “just a great lady.”

“She was a South Sider through and through,” Axelrod, a CNN senior political commentator, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” on Friday, adding that during her time at the White House, “she did not take to the whole celebrity lifestyle.” Instead, Axelrod said, “she would often slip out of the White House on her own and visit with friends. … She really wasn’t looking for attention.”

Years after the unveiling of the Obamas’ portraits at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in 2018, Michelle Obama recalled how impactful her mother’s reaction had been when she took her to the museum after hours.

“(It was) quiet and (I was) watching my mom, Marian Robinson, sit at the base of my portrait and look up at it with such a level of awe,” she said when the portraits were temporarily moved to Chicago.

“And for me, watching her see me in that way meant the world to me,” Michelle Obama said.

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