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Rita Owens, Queen Latifah's mother, is dead

NEW YORK — Queen Latifah is mourning the death of her mother. In a statement, the singer and actress says Rita Owens died Wednesday after struggling with a heart condition for many years. The statement did not given her mother's age or say where the death occurred. reports Owens, a longtime New Jersey resident and teacher, was 69.

"It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my mother, Rita Owens, passed away today," Latifah said. "Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth. She was gentle, but strong, sweet, but sassy, worldly but pragmatic, a woman of great faith and certainly the love of my life."

Owens was diagnosed with heart trouble in 2004. In 2016, Latifah talked about her mother's health issues and said she was shocked when she found out her mother suffered from heart failure. Owens was only in her 50s when she was diagnosed. 

Like many, Owens had missed the early symptoms of the disorder, including shortness of breath and unusual fatigue. Latifah said she "might have caught it sooner" if she had known what to look for. The experience inspired Latifah to speak out about the illness and work with the American Heart Association to help educate the public about heart disease. 

On Monday, Latifah had asked fans to pray for her mother's recovery.

Queen Latifah, whose real name is Dana Owens, says her mom was "the love of my life."

She described her mother, who worked as a high school teacher for many years, as gentle, strong, sweet and sassy.

There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.