Reaction was swift to the passing of Josephine Ann Harris, 70, the owner of Ann's Place on South Hawkins. Her death made national headlines because just hours before she was pronounced dead at Akron General she was getting a hug from President Obama.
The President's bus tour stopped at the restaurant. He actually arrived before she did, but family members were close behind bringing Harris to the restaurant so she could meet the President. Harris had been suffering from ill health since February, said family members, with a series of stroke and heart attacks. The President event left the restaurant to personally greet Harris upon her arrival in the parking lot.
Mr. Obama called Harris' daughter to offer his personal condolences. White House press secretary Jay Carney offered a statement to reporters as the President wrapped up his campaign bus trip in Pittsburgh and boarded Air Force One for the trip back to Washington, calling the news "very sad" and adding the entire family was in the President's "thoughts and prayers."
- - -
(White House statement)
MR. CARNEY: Thank you for your patience. I'll do a brief gaggle. We were waiting because the President just got off the phone with Wilma Parsons, who is the daughter of Ann Harris -- Josephine Ann Harris -- who was the owner of Ann's Restaurant. I think you all saw the report, the very sad news that Ann passed away this afternoon. And you know the President met with her at the restaurant -- she actually wasn’t there when he arrived, but she came with some other members of her family, and he met with her I think after the pool had left.
So the President expressed his sorrow and his condolences at the very sad event. He was honored to meet her this morning and passed on his feelings that the whole family is in his thoughts and prayers today.
MS. PSAKI: And also there's a statement that's going out as we speak from the Ohio campaign, from their state director, Greg Schultz. I'm just going to read it here:
We're extremely saddened by Ann's sudden passing this morning. Our sincere condolences go to Ann's family during this difficult time. As a small business owner, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and a friend of many throughout the community, Ann led an exceptional life and will be missed by all who knew her. Ann and her family are in our thoughts and prayers.
Q Is there any concern that the President was in danger of having been food-poisoned or anything like that?
MR. CARNEY: No. No.
Q I mean, somebody dies in a restaurant where the President was --
MR. CARNEY: She wasn’t even in the restaurant. She met with him outside -- she drove up to the restaurant. But, no, there was never -- I mean, obviously you can address questions about the President's security to the Secret Service, but, no, that was not a concern here. Based on the press reports, I believe it was a heart attack. She was -- my understanding is that she had not been well.