Obama pays last respects to grandmother “Toot”
HONOLULU – The hectic pace of the election campaign kept him from attending her funeral.
But President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday finally paid his last respects to the woman he called the “rock” of his family, the grandmother who help raise him in Hawaii, before scattering her ashes from the shoreline.
Madelyn Dunham, known to Obama as Toot, short for Tutu, the Hawaiian word for grandmother, took him in when his mother went to work in Indonesia and put him through private school.
Dunham was one of the main formative influences on his life, but she did not live to see him win office. She died of cancer at 86 just two days before he won the Nov. 4 election.
Obama bade her farewell at a memorial service attended by friends and family at the First Unitarian Church in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, where he is spending a two-week Christmas holiday.
After the service, Obama and about a dozen others traveled to Lanai Lookout on the southeast corner of Oahu, scrambling over a wall and down to the rocky shoreline to scatter his grandmother’s ashes.
It was the same place where he scattered his mother’s ashes after her death in 1995.
Obama attributed many character attributes to his grandmother, who raised him in the absence of his traveling mother, and his father, who lived in Kenya.
“She’s the one who taught me about hard work,” he told a packed stadium in Denver in August when he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination.
“She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life.”
Reporting by Mike Gordon. Reuters photo by Hugh Gentry (Obama returns from scattering the ashes of his grandmother at a seaside ceremony).