Roberta McCain, whose son, Senator John McCain of Arizona, said she had inspired his will to survive as a prisoner of war in Vietnam — and who at 96 campaigned spiritedly in his losing bid for the presidency against Barack Obama in 2008 — died on Monday October 12 2020 at her home in Washington. She was 108.
Her death was announced on Twitter by her daughter-in-law, Cindy McCain.
Mrs. McCain was Navy through and through — the wife and daughter-in-law of admirals and the mother of the naval aviator who was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and who, for five and a half years, was America’s most famous prisoner of the Vietnam War.
For Mrs. McCain and her husband, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., the commander of all United States forces in the Pacific and in the Vietnam War theater, their son’s captivity in North Vietnam was painfully endured with prayer, and with near silence in public.
The rebellious daughter of a wealthy Oklahoma oil wildcatter who settled his family in Los Angeles, Mrs. McCain eloped and became a Navy wife in 1933. As her husband rose to global military prominence, she lived in capitals and naval bases in Europe, Asia and the Americas for nearly four decades. Her children were born in Honolulu, in the Panama Canal Zone and at the submarine base in Groton, Conn.
During World War II Mrs. McCain, living in Hawaii, rarely saw her husband, a submarine commander whose dangers on months long patrols in the Pacific were the stuff of wartime legends and family nightmares. Her father-in-law, John S. McCain Sr., was also an admiral, who commanded Western Pacific Naval air and carrier task forces in World War II.
After her husband’s death in 1981, Mrs. McCain and her identical twin sister, Rowena, took long driving trips through Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Roberta Wright was born in Muskogee, Okla., on Feb. 7, 1912, one of five children of Archibald and Myrtle (Fletcher) Wright. She was a freshman at the University of Southern California in 1931 when she met Ensign McCain, a recent Naval Academy graduate.
Mrs. McCain was survived by her son Joseph; 10 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and seven great-great-grandchildren. Her daughter, Jean Alexandra McCain Morgan, died last year.