'He knew'

Roberta McCain, 106, grieving loss of her son, but ‘incredibly proud’ of his legacy

Roberta McCain (R), mother of Republican then-presidential hopeful SenatorJohn McCain (R-AZ) (L), speaks during a taping for a broadcast on the 'Meet the Press' at the NBC Studios May 13, 2007 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press)

As the nation is saying farewell to John McCain, the war hero and longtime senator and statesman who died over the weekend at 81, his mother is also saying goodbye, according to a close family friend who spoke to PEOPLE magazine.

Roberta McCain, 106, is “a strong woman” the unidentified source said. “Roberta was his biggest supporter and the leader of his fan club. She was incredibly proud of him,” the family friend continued. “His mommy loved him. He knew that.” According to USA Today, she still called him “Johnny.”

The American statesman was Roberta’s middle of three children. He died on Saturday after deciding to end medical treatment for stage-four glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. She still lives in Washington, D.C. “She outlived her 81-year-old son. That tells you a lot,” the source said about Roberta’s resolve. “But it’s a tough blow to bury your child.”

Roberta, who was born in 1912 during the Taft administration, is known for having an adventurous spirit, particularly in her younger years. And that adventurous spirit, which often took the form of long road trips she took the McCain children on, had a deep effect on John McCain — as did her strong personality. And then he took her on a road trip of sorts years later. At age 95, she joined him on the campaign trail in 2008 when he was the Republican presidential nominee and when some suggested he might be tool old to be commander in chief — he was 71 at the time — she offered herself as an example of his potential longevity.

Last year, when relatives celebrated Roberta’s 105 birthday, John McCain posted a photo on Twitter marking the occasion and saying the family was “blessed” to still have Roberta among them.

“My mother grew to be an extroverted and irrepressible woman,” the late senator wrote in his memoir, Faith of My Fathersaccording to The Washington Post. “She taught me to find so much pleasure in life that misfortune could not rob me of the joy of living,” he wrote.

Read the full story at PEOPLE and The Washington Post.

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