Oprah Winfrey’s Mother Vernita Lee Has Died at Age 83
Oprah Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, died at her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last week at the age of 83.
According to a statement the family gave to People, Lee passed away on Thanksgiving. Winfrey wasn’t in Milwaukee at the time, as her Instagram account showed her celebrating the holiday in California with girls from the school she opened in South Africa in 2007.
Winfrey has not yet commented on her mother’s death, nor has she been active on social media since Thanksgiving. A spokesperson for the talk show host said that a private funeral has already been held for Lee.
Lee was born on May 2, 1935, in Mississippi. Winfrey has spoken throughout her career about the fraught relationship she had with her mother, who, after giving birth to Winfrey, moved to Milwaukee to work as a housekeeper. Winfrey was raised by her grandmother for years until being moved to Milwaukee at age 6 to live with Lee, whom she did not know well. They eventually mended their relationship, and Lee appeared on Winfrey’s show in the ’90s.
Lee is also survived by daughter Patricia Amanda Faye Lee, whom she placed for adoption at birth in 1963 but later reconnected with. (Winfrey also developed a relationship with her half sister in 2010.) She also had two other children — son Jeffrey Lee, who died in 1989, and daughter Patricia Lee Lloyd, who died in 2003.
Memorial donations in Lee’s name can be made to Feeding America. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.
(photo via Jason Merritt/Getty Images)