Roberta McCain, mother of late Arizona senator, dies at 108

PHOENIX — Roberta McCain, who attended her son’s memorial services two years ago, has died aged 108, according to her stepdaughter.

Cindy McCain, the widow of Arizona political icon John McCain, announced the family matriarch’s death Monday on Twitter, saying she “couldn’t have asked for a better role model or a best friend”.

Roberta McCain’s granddaughter, ‘The View’ co-host Meghan McCain retweeted her mother’s announcement.

Cindy McCain did not provide details about her stepmother’s death.

“Angela and I are deeply saddened to learn of Roberta McCain’s passing,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement.

“Born in Oklahoma in 1912, Roberta was a defining figure in American political and military life for more than half a century. She possessed the same outspokenness and nonconformity that Arizonans have come to love in his son.

Roberta McCain memorably marked the campaign trail with her son during his run for president in 2008.

She also cut a royal figure despite using a wheelchair during services for Senator John McCain, who died in August 2018 of brain cancer aged 81.

Her other child, Sandy McCain Morgan, died aged 85 last year.

Roberta’s husband, John McCain Jr., died in 1981.

At 96, Roberta McCain has become the Republican senator’s secret weapon during campaign stops, proof that voters need not worry about her son’s age – over 70 – as he was looking for the presidency.

She remained energetic and active into her 90s, often traveling with her identical twin sister Rowena, who died at 99. She attended the 2008 Republican National Convention, where her son credited “her love of life, her deep interest in the world, her strength, and her belief that we are all meant to use our opportunities to make ourselves useful to our country. I wouldn’t be here tonight if not for the strength of her character.

It was 1933 when a 20-year-old Roberta Wright defied her family and ran away with John McCain Jr. Documents released in 2008 showed that as a young ensign, John Jr. got into trouble when the couple decided to get married and he jumped ship. without authorization.

“I got married young,” she told The Muskogee Phoenix in her native Oklahoma in 2008. “I was 20 and it was the best decision I ever made.”

She married into a legendary military family – her husband retired in 1972 with the rank of four-star admiral, the same rank held by his father, John S. “Slew” McCain Sr. Her son was later held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam even though his father was commander-in-chief of the Pacific forces in the late 1960s.

Roberta McCain was also a young mother when her three children were born, later telling the Oklahoma newspaper that she was “too young and irresponsible to know you were supposed to worry about them. I just let them go. I got a kick out of looking at them.

The senator, who died in 2018, said in 2008 that his “father was often at sea, and the task of raising my brother, my sister and me fell to my mother alone”.

Her other son, Joe, told The Associated Press in 2007 that the family had endless table discussions about history, politics and legislation led by their mother.

“We were all basically on the same side of the fence,” Joe McCain said. “But it was like Talmudic scholars arguing over a single word or adjective in the Testament.”

When Senator John McCain wrote a memoir about his experience as a prisoner of war for nearly six years in a North Vietnamese prison, he described times when he swore in English at his Vietnamese guards, who did not understand .

His mother later told him, “Johnny, I’m going to come and wash your mouth out with soap.”

Meghan McCain recalled her grandmother’s strong will and sense of duty in a 2012 column for The Daily Beast website, writing that Roberta McCain didn’t have “much patience for apologies, especially the part of my father when he was growing up and acting”.

“She once hit him on the head with a thermos in the back of a car because he was acting so bad on a road trip,” Meghan McCain wrote.

The brave personality of the McCain matriarch has become the stuff of stories for the family – and among those in their circle in Washington society.

“Last Christmas, she wanted to drive around France. So she flew to Paris and tried to rent a car,” the senator once joked. “They said she was too old, so she bought one and drove around France.”

Roberta Wright was born on February 7, 1912, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where her father was a businessman whose varied and colorful businesses included smuggling and wild oil hunting. The family moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1920s.

Her husband commanded submarines in World War II and served as second-in-command of the cruiser St. Paul in the Korean War. He went on to hold key positions, including Chief of Naval Congressional Liaison, and died in 1981.

In 1934, when a health report judged him insufficient, the future admiral wrote: “My wife does not know how to cook and my meals are very irregular.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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