Personal Chef to Obamas Found Dead Near Their Martha’s Vineyard Home

Personal Chef to Obamas Found Dead Near Their Martha’s Vineyard Home
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait for their daughters Malia and Sasha to board Marine One at Martha's Vineyard airport in Edgartown, Mass., on August 21, 2016. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

The body of a missing paddleboarder recovered from Edgartown Great Pond by Massachusetts State Police (MSP) divers on July 24 is that of Tafari Campbell, former President Barack Obama’s former chef.

Mr. Campbell, 45, was previously employed by the former first family as a personal chef. He drowned near the Obamas’ home on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Mr. Campbell was employed by former President Obama and was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing,” MSP said in a statement. Mr. Campbell was a native of Dumfries, Virginia.

The Obamas weren’t present at their residence at the time, according to authorities.

The search for the missing paddleboarder began on July 23 after a fellow paddleboarder reported that Mr. Campbell had struggled on the surface, went under, and didn’t resurface.

On July 24, state police announced that sonar from a boat had successfully located the body. Police confirmed that the victim, Mr. Campbell, wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

Shortly before 10 a.m., MSP Underwater Recovery Unit divers successfully retrieved Mr. Campbell’s body about 100 feet from the pond’s shore at a depth of about eight feet. The breakthrough came after Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers employed side-scan sonar from a boat.

The investigation into Mr. Campbell’s death is being jointly conducted by the State Police Detective Unit for the Cape and Islands District and Edgartown Police; further details about the cause of the tragedy haven’t yet been released.

“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, said in a joint statement. “When we first met him, he was a talented sous chef at the White House—creative and passionate about food, and its ability to bring people together.”

The Obamas described Mr. Campbell as a “warm, fun, extraordinarily kind person” who made their lives “a little brighter.”

“That’s why, when we were getting ready to leave the White House, we asked Tafari to stay with us, and he generously agreed,” their statement reads. "He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone.

“Today, we join everyone who knew and loved Tafari—especially his wife Sherise and their twin boys, Xavier and Savin—in grieving the loss of a truly wonderful man.”

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