Sad news today, as it’s confirmed that Oprah Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, has died at the age of 83.
Monday, a spokeswoman for Winfrey issued a statement explaining Lee died at her Milwaukee home on November 22nd. Following her death, the spokeswoman says private funeral services were held, but no other details were provided.
According to Jezebel, Lee was born on May 2, 1935 and is survived by her daughter Winfrey, Oprah’s her half-sister, Patricia Amanda Faye Lee, grandchildren Alisha Hayes, Chrishaunda Lee Perez, Aquarius Lofton, Andre Brown and great-grandchildren Jaxon Praise Perez, Chai Theresa Perez, Donovan Hayes and Trinity Hayes.
Lee had only met Winfrey’s father Vernon Winfrey once before getting pregnant with their daughter and was 19 when she gave birth to the media mogul in deeply segregated Mississippi.
“[Oprah’s] mother wrote me,” Vernon Winfrey told PEOPLE in 1999, “and told me that, you know, the baby had just come, in a letter: what it weighed, what its name was and so forth and so on.”
She worked for many years as a housekeeper, while Oprah Winfrey was raised by Lee’s mother and in 1960, she moved to Milwaukee when her daughter was only 6-years-old, at which time they moved in together.
Long time fans of Oprah may remember that Lee was featured getting a makeover on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1990.
Lee also had two other children — son Jeffrey Lee, who died in 1989 and daughter Patricia Lee Lloyd, who died in 2003. In a rare interview with Milwaukee local station TMJ4, Lee opened up about how she got through the deaths of two of her children.
“I’m a Christian lady, and if you’re a Christian person, it helps you to deal with situations like that,” she said.
As for her uber successful daughter, Lee admits she was inspired to live her life with the same values and purpose that Winfrey has made a career championing: “I loved her the way that she loves people now,” she said. Also, adding that her proudest moment was in 1985 when Winfrey “did the Color Purple.”
Earlier in the day on Thanksgiving, Winfrey posted two videos on her Instagram page from her holiday festivities, including a peek at her impressive feast. Today, she thanked well wishers for their messages of sympathy and condolences.
View this post on Instagram
Lee’s family has requested that memorial donations be made in her name to Feeding America, the United States’ largest domestic hunger-relief non-profit organization.