Tag: Roberta

Cindy McCain Remembers Mother-in-Law Roberta

Win McNamee/Getty Roberta McCain (left) and Cindy McCain in 2008

Hours after the death of her 108-year-old mother-in-law, Roberta McCain, Cindy McCain couldn’t fully fathom that the family matriarch was gone.

“You’re never ready for it,” Cindy tells PEOPLE. “Never.”

“She is going to be missed so much,” says Cindy, 66. “She was a force of nature and someone I loved being around.”

As Cindy prepared to fly east on Monday night to be with brother-in-law Joe McCain, who cared for Roberta for many years at her Washington, D.C., home before she died there Monday, Cindy shared that Roberta’s health had diminished in recent months.

“She was failing,” Cindy said Monday night. “[Joe] called me, maybe two months ago, and he said she’s really starting to decline. And so she just peacefully went to sleep today, that’s really what it was.”

A cause of death has not been disclosed. But there had been other recent health struggles: Earlier this year, Roberta — an adventurous woman into her late 90s, who vigorously campaigned for son John McCain when the Arizona senator ran for president in 2008 — was hospitalized with pneumonia and was slowed by a mild stroke suffered about 10 years ago.

“She was not living her best life,” Cindy says. “She hated the fact that she was unable to move around in the spirited way she was used to prior to getting sick.”

At the end of Roberta’s life “we never talked politics,” Cindy says. “It was grandkids and all those kinds of things.”

Roberta did not get to meet her newest great-grandchild, Meghan McCain’s daughter, Liberty Sage, who was born on Sept. 28. But she lived long enough to learn about the happy news.

“Joe told her that [Meghan] had a little girl and I was going to send him a picture, I have it sitting on my kitchen counter and I was going to FedEx her the baby in a frame,” says Cindy, who calls baby Liberty “adorable” and plans on meeting her this week.

When Roberta and Cindy met some four decades ago, the elder McCain made an immediate impression.

“I was so astounded about how beautiful she was; when I met her, she was in her ’70s — so poised and gracious and immaculately dressed,” Cindy says. “She was something else, and she endeared herself to everybody.”

Ida Mae Astute /Walt Disney Television via Getty From left: Roberta, Cindy and Sen. John McCain in 2008

As a mother-in-law, Cindy recalls a woman who “was always the kindest, nicest person to me.”

“Throughout the 40 years I knew her, she never said an angry word to me, ever,” says Cindy. “She always said words of encouragement. She always told me how nice I looked.”

“She was a sweet, loving person, and she was grateful I was with John,” Cindy continues. “I really hit the jackpot with her as a mother-in-law.”

Roberta’s close friend Greta Van Susteren told PEOPLE that “there wasn’t a place in

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Cindy McCain remembers her mother-in-law, Roberta McCain

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If anyone wondered where the late Sen. John McCain got his wit, grit, sharp tongue, or ability to withstand 5 ½years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam, they only needed to meet his mom. 

Roberta McCain, 108, who weathered her own heartache resolutely as her son “Johnny” was held captive in a war in which her husband served as commander of U.S. Pacific Command, died Monday.

She was a dignified, direct woman with inner-strength who raised her children alone while her husband was away at war and through numerous deployments, her daughter-in-law Cindy McCain recalled Monday. 

“People always marveled at John … someone of great distinction and dignity. He got all of that from her,” Cindy McCain told The Arizona Republic. “She was a woman of great substance and great character and dignity and he really did get that from her. She was a woman that was not just honest, but deeply thoughtful about doing the right thing. John’s very much her son, for sure.” 

Up until her death, she remained at her Washington, D.C., condominium where her son Joe McCain and a longtime caregiver helped care for her. 

In the kitchen, Roberta McCain made a mean curry. 

When it came to politics, she was a fixture in both of his campaigns for president. During her son’s first presidential run in 2000, she was so involved on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, she was assigned her own staff. 

On Monday, after news of Roberta McCain’s death spread, Cindy McCain fielded calls and text messages from across the nation from former campaign aides and staffers looking back with fondness at Roberta McCain’s energetic defense of her son. 

Roberta McCain will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to her husband, John S. “Jack” McCain Jr., an admiral in the U.S. Navy and commander in chief of U.S. Naval forces in Europe who died in 1981.

Though elderly, she was a mainstay throughout his presidential campaigns and would sometimes dress-down her son — then in his 70s when he was the 2008 GOP nominee for president — when she disagreed with his public comments or campaign messaging. During that race, she was such a constant presence, the campaign assigned the candidate’s mother her own campaign bus. 

“We saw a few times on the bus and other places where if she disagreed with him in one-way or another … she’d make sure he knew it,” she said. “Here it is, her son’s running for president, she’s scolding him in the back of the bus. … She wanted to make sure that he was reminded. And John obviously loved her really dearly.”

Roberta McCain maintained her sense of humor, even when her age started to catch up with her.

Cindy McCain remembered rescuing her in Lisbon, Portugal in 2009, after her mother-in-law, an avid traveler, tumbled down a set of cathedral stairs at the age of 97. Cindy McCain remembered visiting her in

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