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Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s Mother, Dead at 86

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Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, mother-in-law Marian Robinson, first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama
livier Douliery- Pool/Getty Images

Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, has died at the age of 86.

The former first lady confirmed the news on Friday, May 31. “My mom Marian Robinson was my rock, always there for whatever I needed,” Michelle wrote via X. “She was the same steady backstop for our entire family, and we are heartbroken to share she passed away today.”

Former president Barack Obama also shared his own separate statement, writing, “Marian Lois Shields Robinson — our mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother — had a way of summing up the truths about life in a word or two, maybe a quick phrase that made everyone around her stop and think. Her wisdom came off as almost innate, as something she was born with, but in reality it was hard-earned, fashioned by her deep understanding that the world’s roughest edges could always be sanded down with a little grace.”

In addition to their tributes, Michelle and Barack shared a link to their family’s statement, which was penned by the couple, as well as Michelle’s brother, Craig Robinson, and his wife, Kelly Robinson, and Marian’s grandchildren: Avery, Leslie, Malia, Sasha, Austin and Aaron. The statement confirmed that Robinson “passed peacefully” early on Friday morning.

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“Marian Lois Shields Robinson — our mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother — had a way of summing up the truths about life in a word or two, maybe a quick phrase that made everyone around her stop and think,” the statement began. “Her wisdom came off as almost innate, as something she was born with, but in reality it was hard-earned, fashioned by her deep understanding that the world’s roughest edges could always be sanded down with a little grace.”

The family called Marian their “backstop, a calm and nonjudgmental witness to our triumphs and stumbles,” and someone who was “always there, welcoming us back home no matter how far we had journeyed, with that deep and abiding love.”

They praised the matriarch as both a mother-in-law and grandmother, as well as a “sister, aunt, cousin, neighbor, and friend to so many” in her life.

Michelle Obamas Mother Marian Robinson Dead at 86
Karwai Tang/WireImage

“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 statement continued. “Yet we are comforted by the understanding that she has returned to the embrace of her loving Fraser, that she’s pulled up her TV tray next to his recliner, that they’re clinking their highball glasses as she’s catching him up with the stories about this wild, beautiful ride. She’s missed him so.”

Robinson was born in Chicago in 1937 in the city’s South Side. There, she raised two children with her husband, Fraser Robinson, who died in 1991 after a battle with multiple sclerosis.

Marian moved to Washington, D.C., in 2009 after the 2008 presidential election to help take care of her granddaughters Sasha and Malia. She became a fixture in the White House during Barack’s eight years in office. Although often keeping a low profile, she was occasionally seen at holiday events, overseas trips and concerts in the East Room.

“I felt like this was going to be a very hard life for both of them,” she told CBS in a 2019 interview of her decision to relocate from Chicago to D.C. for her granddaughters. “And I was worried about their safety, and I was worried about my grandkids. That’s what got me to move to D.C.”

Robinson is survived by her two children and five grandchildren.

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