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Oprah Winfrey’s Mom Vernita Lee Dies at 83 on Thanksgiving

Vernita Lee and Oprah Winfrey oprah mom death
Vernita Lee and Oprah WinfreyGeorge Burns

Oprah Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, died at her home in Milwaukee on Thursday, November 22, Us Weekly confirms. She was 83.

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Lee’s family members tell Us in a statement that they are “saddened to share of her passing.” Private funeral services have already been held. The family said that memorial donations may be made in Lee’s name to the nonprofit organization Feeding America.

Lee was born in Mississippi on May 2, 1935, and worked as a housekeeper later in life. She is survived by daughters Winfrey, 64, and Patricia Amanda Faye Lee. She was predeceased by son Jeffrey Lee, who died in 1989, and daughter Patricia Lee Lloyd, who died in 2003.

Vernita Lee, Oprah's mother.
Vernita Lee, Oprah’s mother. George Burns

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Lee is also survived by her grandchildren Alisha Hayes, Chrishaunda Lee Perez, Aquarius Lofton and Andre Brown, as well as her great-grandchildren Jaxon Praise Perez, Chai Theresa Perez, Donovan Hayes and Trinity Hayes.

Lee was an unmarried teenager when she gave birth to Winfrey in 1954. They moved to Milwaukee when Winfrey was 6 years old. The future TV mogul, now 64, was raised early on by her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, and also spent some time living with her father, Vernon Winfrey, in Nashville.

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Winfrey did not meet her half-sister Patricia until late 2010. “For the most part, my life has been an open book, and on the show, I think I’ve seen about everything,” the host said on her talk show in 2011. “I thought nothing could surprise me anymore, but let me tell you, I was wrong.”

Winfrey shared two Thanksgiving videos on Instagram, but has not yet publicly commented on the news of her mom’s death.

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