Robin Roberts' mother has died, it was revealed on Friday, after the co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America" announced she would begin a scheduled medical leave a day early so she could travel to Mississippi to be with her.
Robin made it back in time to be with Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts at the time of death. She passed away on Thursday at age 88. The cause of her death was not revealed.
"It is with deep regret and heavy prayer and reflection tonight that I write to tell you of the passing of Robin's beautiful and inspiring mother, Lucimarian," Tom Cibrowski, executive producer of "GMA," wrote to ABC staffers on Friday morning in an email, which was obtained by OTRC.com (ABC and OTRC.com are both owned by the Walt Disney Company).
Robin, 51, is preparing to undergo a bone marrow transplant to treat myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood and bone marrow disorder. Roberts' last day on "GMA" before her medical leave was supposed to begin after Friday but she announced on Thursday: "I'm happy to move up my schedule so I can go home to Mississippi to be with my ailing mother and family that are there in the hurricane zone."
She was referring to a tropical storm that has pummeled parts of the southern United States in recent days. Roberts revealed her ailment in June, saying it was caused in part by treatments she had undergone for breast cancer five years ago. Her sister, Sally-Ann, is her bone marrow donor.
"Robin arrived home with her sister Sally-Ann, forging through flooded and blocked roads to be with her beloved mother in time to see her," Cibrowski wrote in his email.
Lucimarian was born in 1924 in Akron, Ohio and says in her book that she "lived through the ugly years of segregation" in the United States. She graduated from Howard University and was the first African-American to head Mississippi's Board of Education, ABC News said. She was active in her community in Mississippi and in the Presbyterian Church. In 2011, she received the Medgar W. Evers Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gulfport branch of the NAACP.
Lucimarian and Robin collaborated on a book, "My Story, My Song - Mother-Daughter Reflections on Life and Faith," which was released in March.
"I'm grateful to God for blessing my mom with many years on this earth," Robin wrote in the book. "It has given our relationship a chance to evolve and grow - from shouting matches that ended with Mom saying, 'Why? Because I'm the Momma and I said so, that's why!' to seeing her not just as my mom but also as a true, dear friend."
Robin's father and Lucimarian's husband of 53 years, Lawrence E. Roberts, had died in Harrison, Mississippi in 2004 at age 81. He was a United States Air Force Colonel and member of the Tuskegee Airmen - the country's first black aviation combat unit, which fought during World War II and whose successes helped pave the way for the desegregation of the military.
In her book, Lucimarian recalled grieving over her husband's death a month after he passed away and being invited, along with Robin, by ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer to a Thanksgiving holiday meal in New York.
"Diane's gracious spirit shone throughout her lovely apartment that autumn day," Lucimarian wrote. "But I must admit that I was more than a little surprised when actress Candice Bergen suddenly appeared with a tray of appetizers. All I could think was 'Murphy Brown is serving me hors d'oeuvres!'"
In addition to Robin and Sally-Ann, Lucimarian is also survived by a son, Butch, and daughter Dorothy. Due to Robin's father's military assignments, Robin's parents lived in 27 countries. They raised their children in Pass Christian, Mississippi.
"'Elegant' is the word most often used to describe Mom," Robin wrote in the book. "Sometimes it's easy to forget her humble beginnings, but she hasn't forgotten. Grandma Sally may not have had much of a formal education, but she instilled values in Mom that remain with her today. Mom made our stark military housing a warm home. We ate dinner by candlelight even if we were eating franks and beans!"
"When I was young and about to leave the house to hang with my friends, Mom would say to me, 'You know the difference between right and wrong,' she added. "Thanks to Mom I did - and still do."