PHOENIX - The half sister of Cindy McCain, wife of presidential candidate John McCain, has died of Alzheimer's disease, the family announced.
Dixie Lea Burd, 74, died on Tuesday in Phoenix. She had been in a nursing home for the past two years, and Cindy McCain arranged for her to go into hospice care, son Bob Burd said.
Cindy McCain and Dixie Burd had the same mother. Marguerite "Dixie" Johnson married Cindy McCain's father, the late James Hensley, in 1945.
"My family is deeply saddened by the death of my half sister, Dixie Burd. She had been very ill for quite some time, and it was difficult for loved ones to see her suffer," Cindy McCain said in a statement released to The Arizona Republic. "I am hopeful that my family's privacy will be respected at this time."
Burd was a homemaker who later helped her family run six Hallmark stores in metropolitan Phoenix. Her son said Cindy McCain was protective of her.
"Throughout the campaign, she said 'You know, I want your mother to be secure and I will try my very best to keep her name out of politics,'" Bob Burd said. "She didn't want my mother to be dragged down in the mud or have any problems, being in a nursing home with Alzheimer's."
Another half sister, Kathleen Hensley Portalski, went public earlier this year with complaints that Cindy McCain wasn't treating her like family. Cindy McCain and Portalski have the same father, James Hensley. He founded Hensley & Co., the Phoenix area Anheuser-Busch distributor, and Cindy McCain inherited her father's stake in the company.
A memorial service for Burd is set for Saturday in Mesa.