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First Ladies Who Died in Office

Posted by By Adeyeye Joseph on 2005/10/24 | Views: 2556 |

First Ladies Who Died in Office

Late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo was the second first lady to die in the course of the week.

Late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo was the second first lady to die in the course of the week. Her death occurred three days after that of Mrs. Endon Mahmood Badawi, the wife of Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Mrs. Badawi died after a futile 3-year battle with cancer. The two women are the latest in the short list of wives of heads of government who lost their lives during their husbands' tenure. Others include Sally, the first wife of President Robert Mugabe, who died of kidney related disease in 1992 and Ko Young Hee, the wife of North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il's, who died of breast cancer in August 2004.

Three former presidents of the United States of America, are recorded to have lost their wives in office. While two, Presidents John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson remarried after losing their wives in office, President Benjamin Harrison never remarried. Like Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan and Chester A. Arthur, Harrison opted to serve his tenure as a bachelor.

In her lifetime, Edon Badawi was a very popular first lady who was well loved by Malaysians. At the time of her death, she was 64-years old. She died shortly after the Malaysian first couple marked their 40th wedding anniversary. She was survived by the couple's two children and four grandchildren. Endon who was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, two years before her twin sister who was diagnosed with the same disease died in January 2004, was widely acknowledged as her husband's major source of inspiration. While battling her cancer, she undertook intensive chemotherapy treatment in a US hospital. This was followed by further treatment in a Malaysian hospital before she was released to go home where she died amidst her family.
Her husband took over from Malaysia's long serving former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, in 2003 and he had often described his wife as his "No. 1 supporter."

Late Sally Mugabe, a Ghanaian, is also fondly remembered by her husband's countrymen. A freedom fighter in her own right, she took active part in the guerrilla struggle that led to Zimbabwe's independence. She mobilised women against Ian Smith's racist and highly discriminatory rule in the former Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe). She was the founder of the Zimbabwe Child Survival Movement and the president of Zimbabwe's Leper Society. Even as Zimbabwe's first lady the politically active Sally was the Deputy Secretary and later Secretary of the ZANU Women's League. She expended great time, energy and resources in taking care of Zimbabwe's civil war orphans, disabled fighters and women.

Although it is unclear if the North Korean leader ever married her, late Ko Young Hee was the best known of Kim Jong II's three consorts. She was idolised as the "revered Mother of the Nation'. She undertook breast cancer treatments at Paris before she returned home to die. Hee used her influence on Kim Jong to take her status to an usually high level in a country where Kim's claim to rulership is partly based to an age-long claim to partial divinity. Before her death, Hee, a former professional dancer, was so honoured by the North Korean military that special anthems were composed by the military in her honour. Any denigration of her name or insult to her person was punished as a high crime. Her two sons, Kim Jong Chul, 24, and Kim Jong Woong, 20 became top contenders for their father's seat after his preferred choice, his first son, Kim Jong Nam, was caught while trying to use a fake passport to enter Tokyo, Japan, so as to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

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