Oprah Winfrey Breaks Silence on Mom Vernita Lee's Death

Oprah Winfrey mourned the loss of her mother, Veronita Lee, who died on Thanksgiving Day.

Lee, who was 83, died in her Milwaukee home, the family told multiple media outlets in a statement. The media personality issued a simple memorial statement on the passing Monday afternoon.

"Thank you all for your kind words and condolences regarding my mother Vernita Lee’s passing," Winfrey wrote alongside a family photo. "It gives our family great comfort knowing she lived a good life and is now at Peace."

(Photo: Instagram / @oprah)

Born on May 2, 1935, Lee worked as a housekeeper her entire life. She is survived by daughters Winfrey and Patricia Amanda Faye Lee, who Lee gave up for adoption at birth and later reconnected with. Lee also had two other children: son Jeffrey Lee, who died in 1989, and daughter Patricia Lee Lloyd, who died in 2003.

TMZ reports that Lee is also served by grandchildren Alisha Hayes, Chrishaunda Lee Perez, Aquarius Lofton, and Andre Brown, as well as great-grandchildren Jaxon Praise Perez, Chai Theresa Perez, Donovan Hayes, and Trinity Hayes.

Lee has reportedly already been laid to rest and a private memorial service has been held for her. The family directed memorials to Feeding America in Lee's name.

After sharing two Instagram videos on Thanksgiving, Winfrey had stayed quiet on social media.

Lee had Winfrey when she was 18 years old in Mississippi 1954. Winfrey spent her childhood traveling between her mom, dad and grandparents' homes.

"[Oprah's] mother wrote me," Winfrey's father, Vernon Winfrey, told PEOPLE previously, "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."

TMZ reports that Lee moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when Winfrey was 3 years old and that Winfrey was raised by her maternal grandmother until she was 6, when she moved to Milwaukee to live with Lee.

Winfrey has spoken about her rocky relationship with Lee in the past. "I was asking the question ... what is a mother? What are you supposed to feel about your mother?" she said, according to TMZ.

Lee later appeared on Winfrey's talk show in 1990, where her personal stylist gave her a makeover. In 2011, Lee appeared on the show with Patricia Lee, where the women discussed Lee's decision to put Patricia up for adoption. She said she never told Winfrey about her half-sister "because I thought it was a terrible thing for me to do... I made the decision to give her up because I was unable to totally take care of her."

Winfrey, who initially said she was stunned to learn about her sibling, told Lee she had made peace with the decision. "To my mother, I say, 'You can let this shame go.'"

During a 2003 visit to the city of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, Winfrey spoke about her childhood in Milwaukee at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's annual Freedom Fund dinner. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, she said that her best Christmas was in Milwaukee when she was 12 and living on North 10th Street.


Lee had told Winfrey that Santa Claus would not be making his annual visit because she didn't have enough money to buy gifts. But on Christmas Eve, nuns brought food and toys for Winfrey and her siblings.

Winfrey said that the experience was one of many that taught her that through giving, "you enlarge the spirit of somebody else."