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Obama pays his respects to 'Toot'


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 24, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama yesterday formally mourned the death of his grandmother, who helped raise him when he was growing up in Hawaii.

 

"[Preview]" Obama Family, Friends Attend Service For Grandmother
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A private service was held this afternoon in Nuuau this afternoon for Obama's late grandmother Madelyn Dunham.

 

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"In

 

  He gathered with family and friends for a private memorial service for Madelyn Payne Dunham, known to Obama and friends as "Toot." Dunham, 86, died Nov. 2, two days before Obama was elected the nation's first African-American president.

Obama did not speak to reporters at the small home that had been converted into the First Unitarian Church in Nuuanu. Aides said Obama's half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her husband, Konrad Ng, also were present.

From the church at one point came the strains of "Wind Beneath My Wings," a song made popular by Hawaii-born vocalist Bette Midler.

In a written statement earlier this week, Soetoro-Ng said the memorial was held so Obama could "grieve and emotionally process the great loss."

"In recent weeks, I have had an opportunity to mourn our grandmother's passing. However, Barack has not," she said in the statement released when Obama arrived Saturday. "I also hope that Barack has an opportunity to wash off his stress in salt water and re-energize for the long road ahead."

Obama arrived at the church at 1:55 p.m.

At 2:58 p.m., his motorcade left the church toward the Lanai Lookout near the Halona Blowhole, the area where Obama scattered the ashes of his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who died in 1995.

Preparation for Obama's arrival began as early as 1 p.m., when Secret Service agents arrived to survey the area. Police and emergency teams were posted at the nearby Koko Head Shooting Range.

The lookout was closed off by traffic cones and sport utility vehicles as the public and the Star-Bulletin were ushered out by 2:15 p.m.

At 3:27 p.m., the motorcade arrived at the lookout. Obama, casually dressed and wearing sunglasses, and about 20 members of his family climbed over a stone wall and down onto rocky ledges to scatter his grandmother's ashes. The sun was out and the wind was strong.

Obama earlier this year left flowers at the same spot in memory of his mother.

The motorcade left at 3:47 p.m.

Obama started the day with his usual workout at the Semper Fit Center on the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe. When he left the center, Obama greeted several dozen Marines and their families in the parking lot.

He and his wife, Michelle, met with the group for about three minutes. The press pool was held too far away to hear any of the conversation.

As he left, Obama called out, "See you guys."

 

Pool reporter John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.