Senator Obama's grandmother turns 86 Sunday - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Senator Obama's grandmother turns 86 Sunday

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Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
Madelyn Dunham Madelyn Dunham
Christina Simpkins Christina Simpkins

By Diane Ako - bio | email and Tai Hiranaka

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A remarkable birthday for a remarkable woman. Senator Barack Obama's grandmother turns 86 Sunday.

Many across the state are sending their congratulations and their best wishes for a speedy recovery to Obama's beloved "Toot" (short for Tutu, which is Hawaiian for grandmother), who helped raise him.

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) was Madelyn Dunham's secretarial assistant on and off in the 70's. Technically, she was temping as a secretary to Dunham's main secretary.

"Of course, I wish her a happy birthday," said Hirono. "And I really relate to the fact that she was such an influence on Senator Obama because my grandmother raised me too. She was one of the first women officers of the bank and I think she was the first female businessperson I ever met! After 30 something years I still remember her. I didn't know till this year she was Senator Obama's grandmother."

Though Senator Obama went back on the campaign trail Sunday, he was here last week to visit her. Hawaii filmmaker and actress Christina Simpkins met Obama recently. Simpkins blushed with excitement when she recalled the moment.

"He was engaging, charismatic, and has a quiet humility and confidence about him. Those traits are remarkable for a leader."

Obama has credited Toot for his strength of character. Simpkins said, "I think she is remarkable- her compassion, fortitude and love. And much like Senator Obama, her humility is remarkable. She's in my prayers." Simpkins plans to fly to Chicago to be at Obama's campaign headquarters for election night.

Like many folks, Simpkins is touched Obama flew to Hawaii to see Toot.

"I would imagine it would be the best birthday of her life. But I have a feeling a woman like that, with each birthday she has, she has gratitude."

Dunham broke her hip recently and is gravely ill. She is recuperating at her Honolulu apartment, where Obama's sister is caring for her.