Trending | Celebrity

Oprah Struck By Tragic Loss On Thanksgiving Day

While the rest of the country gathered around their dining tables to feast and talk about what they're grateful for, Oprah Winfrey and her family were hit with an unexpected tragedy.

Vernita Lee, the talk show host's mother, passed away on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 83, announced the family.

According to Oprah's niece, Alisha Hayes, Vernita died at her Milwaukee home, where she moved to after Oprah was born.

After meeting Vernon Winfrey, Vernita welcomed her first child in rural Mississippi at the age of 18. She named her Orpah, but because of mispronunciations, she later became known as Oprah.  

Due to a number of reasons, Vernita wasn't able to raise Oprah for the first six years of her life. She moved to Milaukee to work as a housemaid, leaving the future Queen of Media to be cared for by her grandmother.

Oprah eventually went to live with her mother, and although it took a while for them to repair their tumultuous relationship, they became close over the last few years.

On a 2013 visit to Pewaukee, Oprah discussed some aspects of her childhood and revealed that her mother was the one who taught her the importance of giving as a way to "enlarge the spirit of somebody else."

Vernita appeared on Oprah Winfrey Show a handful of times, including in 2011, when it was revealed that the daughter she gave up for adoption in 1963, Patricia, was finally found.

Vernita explained that she never told Oprah 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."

Oprah replied,  "To my mother, I say, 'You can let this shame go.'"

Harpo Inc

Vernita also had a son named Jefferey, but he died in 1989 from AIDS. She is survived by her daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Oprah has yet to issue a statement to address her mother's passing.

According to TMZ, Lee has already been laid to rest in a private funeral, and the family has asked for any memorial donations to be made to Feeding America in Vernita's name.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Oprah and her family during this difficult time.

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.