Oprah Winfrey threw a surprise celebration of life this week for her 88-year-old father Vernon, who is suffering from cancer.
She gathered some of his nearest and dearest to throw a barbecue on the Fourth Of July in honor of Vernon ‘while he’s still well enough’ to enjoy it.
The 68-year-old talk show titan took a selfie video from the party in front of a festive sign that read: ‘Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Celebration.’
Clasping hands: Oprah Winfrey threw a surprise celebration of life this week for her 88-year-old father Vernon, who is suffering from cancer
Party chatter could be heard behind Oprah as she informed her more than 20 million followers: ‘So we’ve been planning a backyard barbecue that’s actually more than a backyard barbecue. It’s for Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Day.’
She explained that ‘my father is ill and so we wanted to be able to have all of his friends come and celebrate him while he’s able to receive the joy.’
Oprah revealed that Vernon, at the point that the video was filmed, still believed all the party preparation had just been for a Fourth Of July fete.
When he walked out in front of the sign, however, he would be treated to a surprise and discover that the festivities were in fact a celebration of his life.
Life of the party: Vernon, a barber who hails from Nashville, was seated in a barber chair in a corner of the backyard where he could not see the sign announcing the reason for the party
Making it happen: The 68-year-old talk show titan took a selfie video from the party in front of a festive sign that read: ‘Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Celebration’
Yum: During the video, Oprah and her longtime sidekick Gayle King showed off some of the food laid out for the guests, including fried chicken, brisket, turkey and burgers
During the video, Oprah and her longtime sidekick Gayle King showed off some of the food laid out for the guests, including fried chicken, brisket, turkey and burgers.
Vernon, a barber who hails from Nashville, was seated in a barber chair in a corner of the backyard where he could not see the sign announcing the reason for the party.
In an article about the party posted this Wednesday, Oprah Daily revealed that Vernon is currently suffering from cancer.
His daughter pulled out the stops for his party, hiring gospel singer Wintley Phipps to perform and inviting Vernon’s sister Christine in from Mississippi.
Side by side: Oprah is pictured at her father’s party alongside Gayle, who has been her close pal and sidekick through decades of stardom
Oprah gave a speech thanking Vernon ‘for being the kind of father who has brought honor to your life and honor to my life,’ noting that when he ran his barbershop he ‘never closed that darn store; not during Christmas, not on the weekends.’
She noted: ‘I learned from your good work ethic, showing up, being on time – that is why for 25 years of The Oprah Winfrey Show, I never missed a show.’
Oprah was born out of wedlock in Kosciusko, Mississippi in the 1950s to Vernita Lee, a maid, and Vernon, who was in the military.
After living with her maternal grandmother in the Mississippi countryside, Oprah moved to Milwaukee aged six to stay with Vernita.
Side by side: Vernon is pictured enjoying his party alongside Stedman Graham, who has been a public couple with Oprah since 1986
Her childhood was scarred by physical and sexual abuse, and Oprah has shared publicly that she was raped when she was only nine years old.
At the age of 14, while pregnant with a son who would be born prematurely and die in infancy, Oprah moved in with Vernon in Nashville.
Vernon firmly imposed his values and discipline on his young daughter, refusing to let her wear midriff-baring clothes or extravagant amounts of makeup.
‘When my father took me, it changed the course of my life,’ Oprah told the Washington Post in the 1980s, the decade when she became a star. ‘He saved me. He simply knew what he wanted and expected. He would take nothing less.’
‘He saved me’: ‘When my father took me, it changed the course of my life,’ Oprah told the Washington Post in the 1980s; she is pictured with Vernon in 2003
Vernon himself explained to the newspaper: ‘I was not the father that had to have the mother tell her, well, you know, she’s a girl, it’s time for you to tell her things. I talked to her about the approach of boys or men. I told her: “If you don’t hold up for yourself, the guys are not going to hold up for you.”‘
Oprah recalled: ‘I remember coming home one time with C’s, and my father saying: “This is not acceptable.”‘
Said she: ‘And I said: “Unacceptable? C is average. This is not a bad grade.: And he said to me, “If you were a child who could only get C’s, then that is really all I would expect of you. I wouldn’t ask for any more from you than C’s. But you are not. And so in this house, for you, C’s are not acceptable.”‘
Oprah graduated high school and college in Nashville and got her start in broadcasting there on the radio station WVOL.
Wow: Oprah pulled out the stops for her father’s party, hiring gospel singer Wintley Phipps, who is pictured in 2012, to perform
She infamously had a strained relationship with her mother, who vanished from her life for years only to reappear when Oprah got famous.
‘Had I not gotten out of Milwaukee, nothing would have been the same. I do believe I would have been dead at 56,’ Oprah told People a few years ago.
The TV legend, who has been candid about her fluctuating size and owns a stake in Weight Watchers, said: ‘I believe I would have been 437 lbs.’
She added: ‘I believe I would have had diabetes. I would have had high blood pressure. I would have suffocated knowing that things could have been different.’