Marian Robinson, mother of Michelle Obama, dies at 86

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Marian Robinson, mother of former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, who provided support and stability, especially during the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency, died on Friday, the Obama and Robinson families said. She was 86.

Fondly called the "first grandma," Robinson played a pivotal role in helping care for her granddaughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, during their early years at the White House.

"With a healthy nudge, she agreed to move to the White House with Michelle and Barack. We needed her. The girls needed her. And she ended up being our rock through it all," the family statement read, adding she died "peacefully" on Friday morning.

Born in 1937 on Chicago's South Side, Robinson was one of seven children. Her parents separated during her teenage years and she witnessed the extreme highs and lows of race relations in the United States.

Her father was not allowed to join a union or work for larger construction firms due to the color of his skin and hence "grew mistrustful of a world that seemed to have little place for him," the family said its statement. Yet, her daughter and son-in-law made it to the White House when Barack Obama became the first Black U.S. president.

The glamour of the White House was never a great fit for Robinson, according to the family.

Rather than hobnobbing with Oscar winners or Nobel laureates, she preferred spending her time upstairs with a TV tray, in the room outside her bedroom with big windows that looked out at the Washington Monument, the family statement said. It added that she made great friends "with the ushers and butlers, the folks who make the White House a home."

Robinson got married in 1960 and had two children, including the former first lady. She also worked as a teacher and a secretary, the family said.

During her eight years at the White House, the family said she would often sneak outside the gates to buy greeting cards at nearby stores and sometimes other customers would recognize her saying she resembled the first lady's mother.

"Oh, I get that a lot," she would smile and reply.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; editing by Diane Craft)