US president-elect Barack Obama paid his last respects on Tuesday to the woman he called the rock of his family, the grandmother who helped to raise him, before scattering her ashes along a shoreline.
Madelyn Dunham, known to Obama as Toot, short for tutu, the Hawaiian word for grandmother, took him in when his mother went to work in Indonesia and put him through private school.
Dunham died of cancer at 86 just two days before he won the Nov. 4 election.
The demands of the presidential campaign meant Obama was unable to fly to Hawaii for her funeral.
But on Tuesday, he finally bade her farewell at a memorial service attended by friends and family, including his wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng.
Obama is in Hawaii for a two-week Christmas holiday before he resumes preparations to take office as president on Jan. 20.
Media were kept away from the First Unitarian Church in Honolulu. After the service, Obama and about a dozen others traveled to Lanai Lookout on the southeast corner of Oahu, scrambling over a wall and down to the rocky shoreline to scatter his grandmother’s ashes.
It was the same place where Obama had scattered his mother’s ashes after her death more than a decade ago.
Obama last saw his grandmother in October, when he abruptly left the campaign trail and flew to her bedside, saying he did not want to repeat the mistake he made with his mother, who died of cancer in 1995 before he was able to see her.
At an election rally on Nov. 3, the day after her death and the day before his election as president, Obama gave his grandmother a poignant epitaph.
“She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America,” he said. “They’re not famous. Their names are not in the newspapers, but each and every day they work hard. They aren’t seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing.”
Meanwhile, an internal report has unearthed no inappropriate contacts between Obama or his top aides and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of plotting to sell off Obama’s Senate seat.
Obama’s incoming legal counsel Greg Craig released the probe on Tuesday after poring over accounts of contacts between transition team staff and the office of Blagojevich, who is facing corruption charges.
Craig said the evidence supported Obama’s statement on Dec. 11 that he had never spoken to the governor about the fate of his Senate seat, which he relinquished after winning the election on Nov. 4.
“In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the governor or anyone from his office about a ‘deal’ or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy,” the report said.
Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had one or two conversations with the Illinois governor and multiple chats with his chief of staff, Craig said.
But the report said there was no discussion of potential benefits for Blagojevich depending on his choice of senator, and Craig said Emanuel had simply passed on the names of qualified candidates.