CHARLOTTE -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama suffered a heavy loss on the eve of the election that he hopes will win him the White House. Madelyn Dunham, the grandmother who helped raise him, died from cancer in Honolulu. She was 86.
"She was one of those quiet heroes we have all across America," Obama said at a rally here, deviating from his stump speech. "I'm not going to talk about it too long because it's hard to talk about."
Someone in the crowd called out: "We're sorry."
Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his wife, Cindy, offered their "deepest condolences to Barack Obama and his family as they grieve the loss of their beloved grandmother."
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to them as they remember and celebrate the life of someone who had such a profound impact in their lives," the McCains said in a statement.
Obama learned of his grandmother's passing around 8 a.m. ET Monday in Florida, several hours after she died in her Hawaii home, adviser Robert Gibbs said. He didn't mention it in his first speech in Jacksonville. The campaign did not release the news until afternoon, as Obama arrived here.
The news was not unexpected. Obama broke off campaigning late last month to make a 22-hour visit to his grandmother, noting her health was failing.
"She's been the rock of my family," Obama said on CBS on Oct. 8. "She worked very hard all of her life, and she made a lot of sacrifices on my behalf."
Born Madelyn Payne in 1922, Dunham grew up in Kansas and attended the University of Washington. She married Stanley Dunham in 1940 and worked as a Boeing aircraft inspector during World War II. In 1960, they moved to Hawaii with daughter, Stanley Ann. That's where the daughter would meet Obama's father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a Kenyan student at the University of Hawaii.
The Dunhams raised Obama while his mother and sister lived in Indonesia during the 1970s and he remained in Hawaii to finish high school. In 1970, Dunham became one of the first two female vice presidents of the Bank of Hawaii.