Oprah mourns her father, Vernon, who died after battling cancer

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Vernon Winfrey and his daughter, Oprah Winfrey. Vernon passed away after battling cancer. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Vernon Winfrey and his daughter, Oprah Winfrey. Vernon passed away after battling cancer. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

Just days after celebrating her father's life, Oprah Winfrey is mourning her 88-year-old father, Vernon Winfrey.

Vernon, a barber and businessman in Nashville, passed away on Friday 8 July following a battle with cancer.

Oprah (68) announced the news on social media. “Yesterday with family surrounding his bedside, I had the sacred honor of witnessing the man responsible for my life, take his last breath. We could feel peace enter the room at his passing,” she said on Instagram.

“My friend and gospel singer Wintley Phipps saluted him with song. He felt the love and reveled in it until he could no longer speak,” she added.

She ended her tribute by thanking family, friends and fans for all the prayers and support she received during her father's illness. 

Four days before his death, Oprah had surprised her dad with a very special party on 4 July, as the rest of America celebrated Independence Day.

“We’ve been planning a backyard barbecue – this is actually more than a backyard barbecue,” she said in a video as she hung a banner with the words, “Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Celebration”.

Although the media mogul didn't elaborate on her father's condition, she noted he was ailing.

“We wanted to be able to have all of his friends come and celebrate him while he’s able to receive the joy,” she said in the video.

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Her dad was not expecting an event to honour him, Oprah told fans. “He thinks it's a 4th of July thing. He doesn’t know that it’s really for him,” she added.

Oprah treated her fans to a feast for the eyes, posting about the meal which included fried chicken, hamburgers and brisket, before showing Vernon, surrounded by friends and family, seated in a barber's chair.

Vernon Winfrey
Vernon opened his barbershop in 1964 in Nashville, Tennessee. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

“My dad’s a barber so we put him in the barber chair,” she said.

The appreciation day, Oprah explained, was to show the importance of cherishing loved ones while they’re around to receive love and affection.

“Giving my father his ‘flowers’ while he’s still well enough to smell them,” she captioned her post.

Oprah has always spoken highly of her father, saying he’d always cared for her, even though he never knew with certainty if he was her biological parent. 

“I had a father who took responsibility for me, even though he knew I could have been somebody else’s child,” she said in her show Honoring our Kings, Celebrating Black Fatherhood.

Oprah Winfrey and Vernon Winfrey
The media mogul hosted a special day for her dad just four days before he passed away. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

“My mother and father never married. They had sex one time. He gets a letter after I’m born saying, ‘Send money. You have a daughter’. And the reason he did, he said, is because it could have been him,” she continued.

“The responsibility that he took for me, not just a responsibility but care and love and direction and support as a young teenage girl, is the thing that made the difference in me being who I am now or somebody you would have never, ever heard of.”

In 1992 Oprah returned to her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, to share her childhood memories with viewers of the Oprah Winfrey Show and introduced the world to Vernon. 

“You’ve always been a kind dad,” she told him, adding that some of her fondest memories growing up was hanging out in the barbershop where she saw plenty role models.

“I saw that over and over again in the barbershop. Men would come in, hardworking men doing everything they could in their lives to support their families, working sometimes two and three jobs to do that,” she says.

While he had been a barber for well over 50 years with his own barbershop, Vernon was also was an elected Nashville city councilman, a deacon at his church and the owner of a small grocery store. 


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