Roberta McCain, mother of late US senator, dies aged 108
Roberta McCain (Screen Capture)

Roberta McCain, the mother of the late US senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, has died at the age of 108, her daughter-in-law announced on Monday.

"It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my wonderful Mother In-law, Roberta McCain," Cindy McCain, John McCain's widow, said in a tweet. "I couldn't have asked for a better role model or a better friend."

Roberta McCain, the daughter of an oil magnate, eloped to Tijuana, Mexico, at the age of 19 with John S. McCain Jr, the son of a US Navy admiral who went on to become an admiral himself.

They had three children including John S. McCain III, who followed his father and grandfather into the military, attending the US Naval Academy and becoming a naval aviator during the Vietnam War.

In 1967, Roberta McCain and her husband were in London, dressing for a party, when they got a call saying her "Johnny," as she called him, had been shot down over Hanoi, and did not appear to have ejected from his warplane.

The following day, a steward broke the news to them that McCain had been captured as a prisoner of war.

"Can you believe that's the best news I ever had in my life?" she said in a 2008 interview when her son was running for president, a race he lost to Democrat Barack Obama.

John McCain died of brain cancer in 2018 and the silver-haired family matriarch cut a stoic figure at memorial services for the Arizona senator.

John McCain, in one of his books, wrote that his mother was "raised to be a strong, determined woman who thoroughly enjoyed life, and always tried to make the most of her opportunities."

She travelled widely throughout her life and sought once, when in her 90s, to rent a car in France, but was denied because of her age.

Undeterred, she bought a car and tooled around Europe, then shipped it to the US east coast and drove it to California, she told The New York Times.