By Bill Barrow | Associated Press
PLAINS, Ga. — Linda Campbell decorated the Lions Club Christmas tree in her small hometown just as she would any other Thanksgiving week, but this was no ordinary Monday in late November.
All around the town of Plains, neighbors mourned the death of their matriarch, former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, while worrying about their patriarch, former President Jimmy Carter.
“We’ve prayed for them every day for a long time,” said Campbell, 75, as another lifelong Plains resident, Lee Johnson, lowered the U.S. and Georgia state flags that fly in front of the downtown commercial district.
Rosalynn Carter died at home Sunday after her physical health declined rapidly as she lived with dementia in recent months. She was 96. The former president, who is 99, has been in home hospice care since February.
It was not immediately clear Monday whether Jimmy Carter will be able to attend the public services for his wife next week in Sumter County and Atlanta.
For months, townspeople anticipated losing him first. Now, with Rosalynn’s death, they and the extended Carter family are embracing the opportunity to celebrate a woman who was so often defined by her husband but who carved her own path locally and globally.
“She was an incredibly humble person — the epitome of grace,” said Tim Buchanan, a cousin of Rosalynn’s whose mother remained close to her throughout her life. “Her fingerprints are on things all over this community.”
Jill Stuckey, a close friend of the Carters since she moved to south Georgia in the 1990s, called the couple “the lifeblood of Plains,” a town of 600 or so. That’s about the same size as when the future president and first lady were born here in the 1920s, wed here in 1946 and ran his presidential campaign out of the old Plains train depot in 1976.
“It was awesome to see the two of them do all those things,” recalled Campbell, who grew up with the Carters’ eldest children. “It was exciting here, too. When they were in the White House, we had tour buses of people from all over the world coming to see where Mr. Jimmy and Ms. Rosalynn came from.”
Perhaps more surprising than a presidential couple emerging from such a small place is that they came back after Jimmy Carter’s 1980 defeat, returning to the same house they lived in when he was first elected to the state Senate in 1962.
“I was surprised a little bit as an 18-year-old wondering why,” said LeAnne Smith, Rosalynn’s niece, who still lives in the home where her aunt grew up. Smith figured they’d “at least go to Atlanta,” where they opened The Carter Center for their post-White House humanitarian work and advocacy for democracy.
“In the long run,” Smith said, “I think that coming back and living here was, you know, their sanctuary and their peace place and their place to rest and enjoy being home.”
Disappointed and even depressed over their early exit from Washington, the Carters dived back into local life. They joined Maranatha …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment