Obama’s campaign spokesman Reid Cherlin confirmed to the Herald yesterday that Zeituni Onyango, 56, who lives on Flaherty Way in South Boston, is Obama’s aunt on his father’s side.
Onyango, a Kenyan native, is believed to be the “Aunti Zeituni” in Obama’s memoir, “Dreams From My Father.”
It wasn’t until recently, when a London newspaper started making inquiries about Onyango, that Deputy Director Bill McGonagle learned of the link.
McGonagle said BHA employees were caught off guard.
“We were as surprised as anyone,” he said. “We were a little bit flabbergasted.”
Onyango has lived in Boston public housing for five years, McGonagle said.
“She has been an exemplary resident,” he said.
She received a small stipend over the past year for working six hours a week as a volunteer resident health advocate in her complex, he said.
Little else is known about her.
Onyango had conversations with several BHA employees in recent days about her blood ties to the senator, McGonagle said. She proudly displays photos of Obama, including some that appear as old as 25 years, inside her first-floor apartment, McGonagle said.
A message left at Onyango’s apartment was not returned.
McGonagle asked that the media respect Onyango’s privacy.
“She is feeling very put upon,” he said.