Roberta McCain: 5 Things To Know About Senator John McCain’s Mother Who Died At 108

The late Senator John McCain’s mother, Roberta McCain, has passed away at the age of 108. Learn more about remarkable Roberta, and her life, here.

UPDATE, 10/12/20, 3:31pm ET: Roberta McCain sadly passed away at the age of 108, her daughter-in-law, Cindy McCain announced in an October 12 tweet. “It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my wonderful Mother In-law, Roberta McCain,” she tweeted. “I couldn’t have asked for a better role model or a better friend. She joins her husband Jack, her son John and daughter Sandy.” She did not provide any further details. Granddaughter Meghan McCain, The View co-host, retweeted her mother’s message.

ORIGINAL: After Senator John McCain‘s death on August 25, much has been said about his legacy as a war hero and prestigious lineage in the US military. His father and grandfather, who both share his name, were the first father and son to become full admirals in Navy history. Eulogies and tributes shouldn’t forget the name Roberta McCain, though. The senator’s 106-year-old mother has led an incredible life and he dearly loved her.

1. She eloped in Mexico with John McCain’s father in 1933. Roberta McCain’s life in the public eye has been wild from the start. When she was 20 and still a junior at the University of Southern California, Roberta eloped with John Sidney McCain Jr. in Tijuana, Mexico! That’s pretty crazy for the 1930s. John McCain Jr., of course, is the father of Senator John McCain. Roberta and her husband were married up until his death in 1981.

2. She was a globetrotter who traveled far and wide with her twin sister. If there’s anything Roberta loves, it’s travel. She and her twin sister, Rowena, spent their youth traveling the world, often going on spontaneous adventures. The sisters once traveled through the Jordanian desert, took a ferry to Macau, and backpacked through Europe on less than $5 a day. “My granddaughter asked me once if it was true that you used to be able to travel in Europe on $5 a day,” Roberta told The New York Times. “I told her, ‘I don’t know; I never spent that much.'”

Their youth was spent traveling with their family across the United States. Their dad, an oil wildcatter, had them travel for weeks along the California coast and the Great Lakes, according to The Washington Post. With her husband in the Navy, their family often had to go on assignment, as well, and she would sometimes travel ahead of him for fun!

Roberta McCain
Roberta McCain (AP Images)

3. John McCain called her a “mobile classroom.” In his memoir “Faith of My Fathers”, John described his mother as a “mobile classroom” who taught him and his siblings about the wonders of the world through stories of her travels. “My mother grew to be an extroverted and irrepressible woman,” he wrote.

4. She came under fire for some controversial marks made during her son’s 2008 presidential campaign. Well, she does have a reputation for being spunky. Roberta sparked some minor outrage after appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews in 2007, and slamming Mitt Romney — and Mormonism as a whole.She cut loose again in 2009 on The Tonight Show, slamming Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann.

5. She has a major rebellious streak. Being over 100 years old has never stopped Roberta from living her life to the fullest. Though she recently suffered a stroke, she attended her son’s memorial services in Arizona, Washington DC, and Maryland. Even in her 90s, she had a speeding habit behind the wheel and frequently got tickets. The senator was shocked to learn a decade ago that his mother had embarked on a cross-country driving trip, by herself, in Europe. She had been told she was too old to rent a car, so she just bought one.