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

WASHINGTON — Former first lady Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, has died, according to a family statement shared with NBC News. Robinson was 86 years old.

“She passed away peacefully this morning, and at this time, none of us know exactly how we will move forward without her,” the family’s statement said.

The family statement comes from Michelle and Barack Obama; Craig Robinson and his wife, Kelly; and Marian Robinson’s grandchildren, Avery, Leslie, Malia, Sasha, Austin and Aaron.

Robinson became known to Americans as the nation’s first grandmother after her son-in-law, Barack Obama, won the 2008 presidential election. She was a fixture in the White House during his eight years in office, although she kept a low profile. She attended holiday events, occasional trips abroad, and concerts in the East Room. But more often than not, she was with her granddaughters, Sasha and Malia.

Marian Robinson moved to Washington, D.C., to help care for her granddaughters at the White House.File Carolyn Kaster/AP

Having lived in Chicago all his life, Robinson agreed to move to Washington, D.C., in 2009 to live in the White House residence and help care for his granddaughters, then ages seven and 10.

“I felt like life was going to be very hard for both of them,” she later said in a CBS interview, referring to her daughter and son-in-law. “And I was worried about their safety and I was worried about my grandchildren. That’s what pushed me to move to Washington. »

In their statement Friday, Robinson’s family members said she agreed to leave Chicago with “a healthy helping hand.”

“We needed her. The girls needed her and she ended up being our rock through it all,” they said.

“She loved her role as grandmother. … And although she enforced the house rules we set for bedtime, watching TV or eating candy, she made it clear that she sided with her ‘grandchildren’ thinking their parents were too strict,” they added.

Robinson was born in Chicago in 1937 and grew up on the city’s South Side, where she raised her daughter and son, Craig Robinson. She was married to Fraser Robinson, who died in 1991 from multiple sclerosis.

The former president once called his mother-in-law “the least pretentious person I know.” Indeed, Robinson said in the CBS interview that it was a “huge adjustment” expected by the White House residence staff, whom she said she convinced to let her make her own laundry.

“Rather than hanging out with Oscar or Nobel Prize winners, she preferred to spend her time upstairs with a TV set, in the room outside her bedroom with large windows that overlooked the Washington Monument,” the family said in its statement Friday. “The only guest she insisted on asking to meet was the Pope.”

The former president credited Robinson with keeping his daughters grounded while they grew up in the White House.

“She’s down to earth and she doesn’t understand all the fuss,” he said in an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Marian Robinson, pictured right with her granddaughter, Malia Obama, and her daughter, Michelle Obama, was a fixture at the White House during Barack Obama’s presidency.Butch Dill / AP File

Michelle Obama was deeply close to her mother. It was Robinson who narrated the biographical video introducing his daughter at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. And after leaving the White House, Robinson said, “I say when I grow up, I want to be like Michelle Obama.” »

Just a few weeks ago, Michelle Obama honored her mother on Mother’s Day by announcing that an exhibit at the Obama Presidential Center Museum in Chicago would be named after her.

“In many ways, she developed in me a deep sense of confidence in who I was and who I could be by teaching me to think for myself, use my own voice, and understand my own worth.” , declared the elder. the first lady said in a video announcement. “I simply wouldn’t be who I am today without my mother.”

The family’s statement released Friday said “there was and will be only one Marian Robinson,” adding: “In our sadness, we are lifted by the extraordinary gift of her life. And we will pass the rest of us to try to live up to his example.

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