Vernita Lee, the mother of media mogul Oprah Winfrey, has died.
TMZ reported that Winfrey’s niece, Alisha Hayes, said Lee passed away on Thanksgiving Day. Other family members have reportedly confirmed her death as well, with a representative for Winfrey releasing this statement to Metro.co.uk:
“The family of Vernita Lee are saddened to share of her passing on November 22, 2018 at her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was 83 years old. Born May 2, 1935, she is survived by her daughters Oprah Winfrey and Patricia Amanda Faye Lee, grandchildren Alisha Hayes, Chrishaunda Lee Perez, Aquarius Lofton and Andre Brown and great grandchildren Jaxon Praise Perez, Chai Theresa Perez, Donovan Hayes and Trinity Hayes.
“She was predeceased by son Jeffrey Lee (1960-1989) and daughter Patricia Lee Lloyd (1959-2003). Private funeral services have been held. Memorial donations in Vernita’s name may be made to Feeding America (feedingamerica.org).”
Lee gave birth to Winfrey in 1954 at 14 years old in Kosciusko, Mississippi. She moved to Milwaukee to become a maid, leaving Winfrey to be raised by her grandmother until age 6. Winfrey then moved in with her mother, whom she considered a virtual stranger.
“I suddenly land in a place that’s completely foreign to me. I don’t know anybody. I don’t really even know my mother,” Winfrey told The Huffington Post. “I walked into that space feeling completely alone and abandoned.”
Winfrey was also under her mother’s care when she was molested by her cousin and abused by an uncle. Winfrey later repaired her relationship with her mother, thanking Lee for “doing the best she knew and could do in raising me.”
Thank you to my mother Vernita Lee for doing the best she knew and could do in raising me. pic.twitter.com/JhKTY2RK
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) May 13, 2012
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After the passing of her mother, we’re sending well wishes to @Oprah and her family ❤️