Margaret Payne died at age 87 in Chapel Hill, N.C. She had a successful career as a university professor, and also authored two books on educational curriculum.
Payne's sister was the president's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, but she kept the relationship proudly to herself.
"He was in the place of the relatives, which is what he was for her," said Margery Duffey, a close friend who lived in Chapel Hill with Payne.
Only in the fourth paragraph of a detailed obituary listing her many accomplishments does it note Payne's relationship to the president of the United States.
Payne was a professor of nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center and worked as consultant to the National Education Association in Washington, D.C., according to her obituary.
She also taught at the School of Education at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, before joining the faculty at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Honolulu.
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