Obama family mourns the death of former first lady's mother, Marian Robinson

 June 1, 2024

Marian Robinson, the mother of former first lady Michelle Obama, passed away on Friday at the age of 86, NBC News reported.

The sad news was shared in a joint statement from her family, including former President Barack Obama and Michelle, her son Craig Robinson and his wife Kelly, and her six grandchildren: Avery, Leslie, Malia, Sasha, Austin, and Aaron. "She passed peacefully this morning, and right now, none of us are quite sure how exactly we’ll move on without her," the family said of their beloved matriarch.

Helped raise her granddaughters during Obama's presidency

NBC News reported that Marian Robinson was born and raised in Chicago's South Side and was married to Fraser Robinson, who passed away in 1991 and with whom she raised their two children, Craig and Michelle.

Robinson gained a bit of national attention when she moved into the White House along with the Obamas following the 2008 election to help care for her granddaughters and remained a constant but low-key presence there throughout the former president's two-term tenure in office.

Per the outlet, she "attended holiday events, the occasional overseas trip, and concerts in the East Room," though she mostly just spent time with Sasha and Malia.

From Chicago's South Side to the White House

The family statement recounted Robinson's tough childhood in Chicago with separated parents and how she worked and volunteered while raising two children of her own after getting married to her husband, and how once her children became adults, "At every step, as our families went down paths none of us could have predicted, she remained our refuge from the storm, keeping our feet on solid ground."

"With a healthy nudge, she agreed to move to the White House with Michelle and Barack. We needed her. The girls needed her. And she ended up being our rock through it all," the family said. "Less encumbered by the responsibilities of motherhood, she’d indulge in a little more fun and games while keeping any danger of spoiling her grandchildren safely at bay. And although she enforced whatever household rules we’d set for bedtime, watching TV, or eating candy, she made clear that she sided with her 'grandbabies' in thinking that their parents were too darn strict."

Robinson lived a relatively quiet and unpretentious life in the White House, as "Rather than hobnobbing with Oscar winners or Nobel laureates, she preferred spending her time upstairs with a TV tray, in the room outside her bedroom with big windows that looked out at the Washington Monument."

"Over those eight years, she made great friends with the ushers and butlers, the folks who make the White House a home," the statement noted, and after her time in Washington D.C., "she returned to Chicago, reconnecting with longtime friends, trading wise-cracks, traveling, and enjoying a good glass of wine."

A beloved mother and grandmother

"As a mother, she was our backstop, a calm and nonjudgmental witness to our triumphs and stumbles," the family's statement said. "She was always, always there, welcoming us back home no matter how far we had journeyed, with that deep and abiding love."

"As a grandmother, at every stage of their lives, from infancy through adulthood, she stood secondary watch over her grandchildren’s growth and development, inspiring them, listening to them, telling them she was proud of them, making them feel loved, like they were remarkable in every way," the statement continued.

"We will all miss her greatly, and we wish she were here to offer us some perspective, to mend our heavy hearts with a laugh and a dose of her wisdom," the family added.

Obamas in mourning

In an X post, former President Obama said, "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."

The former first lady wrote in a post, "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."

Just a few weeks earlier, in honor of Mother's Day, Michelle posted a photo of her and her mom and said, "My mom has always been my rock and I’m so grateful for all the ways she continues to show up for my family. She’s taught me so much over the years, and I feel so lucky that I get to pass that same wisdom down to my own girls. To all the moms celebrating today, I hope you know how much you’re appreciated.

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