Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, center, with his grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, on a park bench in New York City while he was a student at Columbia University. Obama made reference to his grandmother during his recent speech on U.S. race relations.

It is with a heavy heart that I, like many other news providers are announcing that Madelyn Dunham, the grandmother of Senator Barack Obama, has died after a battle with cancer.

Senator Obama and his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, released the following statement:

“It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer.  She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility.  She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances.  She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring.  Our debt to her is beyond measure.

Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time.  It brought our grandmother and us great comfort.  Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date.   In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer.”

Obama said the decision to go to Hawaii was easy to make, telling CBS that he “got there too late” when his mother died of ovarian cancer in 1995 at 53, and wanted to make sure “that I don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Outside the apartment building where Dunham died, reporters and TV cameras lined the sidewalk as two police officers were posted near the elevator. Signs hanging in the apartment lobby warned the public to keep out.

Longtime family friend Georgia McCauley visited the 10th-floor apartment where Obama had lived with his grandparent.

“So many of us were hoping and praying that his grandmother would have the opportunity to witness her grandson become our next president,” said state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, an Obama supporter. “What a bittersweet victory it will be for him. Wow.”