Oprah Winfrey‘s mother, Vernita Lee, died in her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Thanksgiving, the family told PEOPLE in a statement. She was 83.
Lee was born on May 2, 1935 and worked as a housekeeper throughout her life. She is survived by Winfrey and daughter Patricia Amanda Faye Lee, who she gave up for adoption at birth and reconnected with later in life. Lee also had two other children — son Jeffrey Lee, who died in 1989 and daughter Patricia Lee Lloyd, who died in 2003.
A spokesperson for Winfrey says her mother has already been laid to rest at a private funeral.
In an interview with Milwaukee local station TMJ4, Lee opened up about how she got through the deaths of two of her children.
“I’m a Christian lady, and if you’re a Christian person, it helps you to deal with situations like that,” she said.
Winfrey posted two videos on her Instagram page from Thanksgiving, including a peek at her feast. She has stayed off social media since.
In the interview, Lee said she modeled the example of giving other love, which her daughter made a career of.
“I loved her the way that she loves people now,” she said, adding that her proudest moment was in 1985 when Winfrey “did the Color Purple.”
The mogul’s mom and father, Vernon Lee, met once before welcoming Winfrey in 1954. Winfrey then traveled between her mom, dad, and grandparent’s houses throughout her childhood.
“[Oprah’s] mother wrote me,” Vernon told PEOPLE, “and told me that, you know, the baby had just come, in a letter: what it weighed, what its name was and so forth and so on.”
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