Barack Obama Celebrates Remarkable Life of Step-Grandmother Who Died in Kenya at 99

Sarah Hussein Obama, 86, the grandmother of US Presidential candidate Barack Obama, poses in her home awaiting the results of Super Tuesday's primary February 5, 2008 in Kogelo, Kenya.
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Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, who President Barack Obama affectionately called “Dani” or Granny, died on Monday.

Former President Barack Obama is celebrating the remarkable life of his beloved step-grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, who he affectionately called “Dani” or Granny. She was at least 99 years old when she died Monday, CBS News reported.

Sarah Obama was the second wife of Obama's grandfather and helped raise his father, Barack Obama, Sr. The family is part of Kenya's Luo ethnic group, CBS reported.

Family and loved ones described the matriarch of Obama’s family in Kenya as a person who was a philanthropist and advocate who promoted education for girls and orphans in the rural Kogelo village. During a 2014 interview with the Associated Press, Onyango Obama, who was unable to read, said she wanted her children to be able to read, so she saw to it that all her family’s children went to school. That same year she was honored by the United Nations for her work to support education. 

Marsat Onyango, Sarah Obama’s daughter, confirmed her mother’s passing at 4 a.m. at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital in Kisumu, Kenya's third-largest city. She told the Associated Press that she was “devastated” by her mother's passing.

A family spokesperson said she did not die from COVID-19. She had been sick for a week before being taken to the hospital, CBS reported. 

President Obama shared on social media a heartfelt message about “Mama Sarah,” which he and many others called her. He described his grandmother’s presence as a “constant, stabilizing force,” when his family endured difficulties. He said that after his father passed away, he traveled to Kenya and pointed out that it was “her stories” that were a “bridge to the past” that helped “fill a void in my heart.” 

Sarah Obama attended President Obama's first inauguration in 2009.

“Although not his birth mother, Granny would raise my father as her own, and it was in part thanks to her love and encouragement that he was able to defy the odds and do well enough in school to get a scholarship to attend an American university,” he wrote.  

"We will miss her dearly, but celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life."