If Michelle Obama is her husband's “rock,” his grandmother is a big part of the ground beneath it.
Madelyn Payne Dunham gave young Barack Obama a place to call home while his mother traveled the world. When he needed money for school, she went without new clothes to help pay his tuition.
Obama is suspending campaigning Thursday and Friday to visit the gravely ill Dunham in Hawaii.
“I think she thinks she was important in raising a fine young man,” her brother, Charles Payne, 83, said in a brief telephone interview Tuesday from his Chicago home.
Obama and others credit Dunham – whose birthday is Sunday – with instilling in him an appreciation for education and hard work, and with setting an example of thrift, practicality and tolerance.
A couple of weeks before her high school graduation in 1940, without her parents' knowledge or blessing, she married Stanley Dunham.
During World War II, she raised her daughter, Stanley Ann, and supervised a B-29 bomber assembly line while her husband was at war.
After the war, she worked her way up from bank secretary to one of the first female bank vice presidents in Hawaii.
The couple were living in Honolulu when their daughter met Barack Obama Sr., a student from Kenya.
Payne said his sister was hospitalized briefly but is back home in her Honolulu apartment, where Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, cares for her.