Maya Angelou's Funeral: Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey Remember Acclaimed Poet, Author

Celebrity News Jun. 7, 2014 AT 2:10PM
Maya Angelou First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and more paid tribute to the late Maya Angelou at a memorial service in N.C. on June 7 Credit: Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic

Family and friends gathered to celebrate the late Maya Angelou at a memorial service at Wake Forest University in North Carolina on Saturday, June 7, the Associated Press reports.

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Angelou died at the age of 86 on May 28. She was found by her caretaker in her Winston-Salem N.C. home. (Days earlier, she decided to not attend the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon in Houston due to health concerns.)

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Those who paid tribute to the acclaimed author and poet Saturday included First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and former President Bill Clinton. Singer-songwriter Lee Ann Womack was on hand to sing her 2000 hit "I Hope You Dance," which is said to have been one of Angelou's favorite songs.

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Obama, Clinton, and Winfrey all spoke at the Wake Forest University service, which is where Angelou had taught as a professor since 1982. Obama recalled meeting her for the first time at a campaign rally in 2008. Clinton, for his part, spoke of what she gave back to the world.

"She called our attention in thousands of ways to her belief that life is a gift manifested in each new day," he said of Angelou. "She called our attention to the fact that things that really mattered—dignity, work, love and kindness—are things that we can all share and don't cost a thing…"

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Winfrey noted that she "cannot describe" the loss she's feeling. "She was my anchor, so it's hard to describe to you what it means when your anchor shifts," she said. "But I realized this morning I really don't have to put it into words. What I have to do is live it, because that's what she would want. She would want me, you, us to live her legacy." (It was announced Friday that Winfrey's OWN network would telecast the memorial service.)

Angelou is survived by her son, writer Guy Johnson.

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