Ruth Odom Bonner helped then-President Barack Obama ring the hallowed bell to celebrate the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Bonner passed away at the age of 100 in her sleep Friday at an assisted living facility in Silver Spring, Maryland, according to a report from the Washington Post. Bonner was 99-years-old when she rung the bell with the Obamas, as well as met stars such as Bill Clinton, Oprah, and Will Smith while getting the opportunity to see the museum well before the ceremony took place.
“She was proud to be part of history,” Bonner’s granddaughter, Rukiya Bonner, said. “She was thankful that such an institution existed…She felt honored to meet Obama, because she would never think that in her lifetime she would see such a wonderful president who happened to be black.”
“The whole family was talking about it all day long,” Rukiya added. “That extended into Christmas…It was a surreal moment…a wonderful way to sum up a lot of her life experiences.”
Bonner was born in 1917 as one of the eight children of Elijah and Ada Odom, with her father being born into slavery in 1859 but ultimately becoming a physician after the Civil War. A memorial service for Bonner is set for September 9, at Washington’s Nineteenth Street Baptist Church.