Oprah Winfrey’s mom, Vernita Lee, passed away on Thanksgiving Day in her Milwaukee, Wisconsin home, multiple outlets have confirmed.
The woman was 83, and there is no information on the cause of death at this time.
A spokesperson told both PEOPLE and E! News that a private funeral was already held.
Alisha Hayes, Winfrey’s niece, reportedly posted about Lee’s death on social media before the family officially confirmed the news.
Monday afternoon, Winfrey posted the following message on Instagram: “Thank you all for your kind words and condolences regarding my mother Vernita Lee’s passing. It gives our family great comfort knowing she lived a good life and is now at Peace.”
Who was Vernita Lee, Oprah Winfrey’s mom?
Lee was born on May 2, 1935. Throughout her life, she reportedly worked as a housekeeper and had a “difficult” relationship with Winfrey.
In 1954, Lee gave birth to Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi.
Winfrey was raised by her grandmother for the first few years of her life before moving to Milwaukee to live with Lee at age 6. She alternated between Lee, her grandmother and father, Vernon Winfrey, during childhood.
“I grew up with an understanding that there was this God — all-knowing, all-powerful — who loved me,” Winfrey said on an OWN special in 2015. “The wonder of that, the magical mystery of that, is what carried me when I was separated from my grandmother and sent to live with my mother at 6 years old.”
“I suddenly land in a place that’s completely foreign to me,” she continued. “I don’t know anybody, I don’t even really know my mother…”
Lee lost two of four children: son Jeffrey Lee, who died in 1989 of AIDS, and daughter Patricia Lee Lloyd, who passed away in 2003.
“I’m a Christian lady, and if you’re a Christian person, it helps you to deal with situations like that,” Lee said of their deaths on local radio station TMJ4.
According to TMZ, Lee retired from a hospital dietitian job after she reconnected with Winfrey. She moved into a Milwaukee “luxury condo,” and Winfrey reportedly gave her a monthly stipend of $5,000.
Lee leaves behind Winfrey and another daughter (Winfrey’s half-sister) Patricia Amanda Faye Lee, whom she gave up for adoption at birth.
“I was 9 years old at the time of [her adoption], living with my father in Nashville, Tennessee,” Winfrey revealed in 2011, per E! News. “I had no idea my mother was even pregnant.”
Watch Vernita Lee get a makeover on Oprah’s show
Once Winfrey found media success, Lee appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show for a makeover in 1990. Watch below:
“Thank you to my mother Vernita Lee for doing the best she knew and could do in raising me,” Winfrey posted on Twitter years ago along with an old picture of the two.
When asked what Lee gave Winfrey throughout their complicated relationship, the woman told TMJ4, “I loved her the way that she loves people now.”