Former first lady Rosalynn Carter passed away at the age of 96, her family reported. In the statement they issued for the public, they wrote that Rosalynn “died peacefully, with family by her side” at 2:20 p.m. at her Plains, Georgia, home in the country.
The Carter Center reported that Rosalynn battled dementia and that her health deteriorated recently.
“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” former president Jimmy Carter said in the statement. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.”
In private conversations, President Carter’s aides would sometimes call her “co-president.”
During his presidency from 1977 to 1981, Jimmy Carter told aides, “Rosalynn is my best friend… the perfect extension of me, probably the most influential person in my life.”
During his presidency, Roselynn wasn’t just a First Lady, but she was her husband’s closest advisor and stood by his side supporting every decision he made as a head of the country.
After leaving the White House, the Carters returned to live in their family house in Plains, Georgia. The house, which according to Zillow is valued at $209,996, was built in 1961, when the Carters welcomed their fourth child in their lives and needed a bigger place. The couple always led a quite and a very simple life.
He never took any advantage of post-presidential popularity and was reported saying: “I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it. It just never had been my ambition to be rich.”
The Carters had been part of the Habitat for Humanity for many years and helped renovate around 4,300 houses in 14 different countries.
Before coming to Washington in 1977, Rosalynn was seen as unassuming and quiet, but she soon turned into an eloquent speaker, campaigner and activist. She was well-known for her efforts on mental health and caregiving and women’s rights.
“The best thing I ever did was marry Rosalynn,” Carter told the C-SPAN cable TV channel in 2015. “That’s the pinnacle of my life.”
Before Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, he was a peanut farmer-turned-governor. Following his election, he and Rosalynn moved to The White House and became a powerful team, with Jimmy referring to her as “an extension of myself” and “my closest adviser.” She wasn’t just a first lady, but someone who was heavily involved in her husband’s work. What’s most, she attended important cabinet meetings and political strategy discussions. According to Jimmy Carter, he shared almost everything with his dear wife, except for the top-secret material.
“I think she understands the consciousness of the American people and their attitudes perhaps better than do I,” he said in a 1978 interview.
Rosalynn got the nickname “the Steel Magnolia” because of her influence, loyalty, and compassion. It was reported that while serving as a first lady, White House staffers sometimes sought her approval on initiatives before bringing them up to the president.
She became interested in mental health during the time her husband ran for a governor in Georgia. “I used to come home and say to Jimmy, ‘Why are people telling me their problems?’ And he said, ‘Because you may be the only person they’ll ever see who may be close to someone who can help them,’” she explained.
When Ronald Reagan won the elections in 1980, Rosalynn seemed more distraught about it than her husband. It was likely because of the fact that she wasn’t as keen as Jimmy to be returning to Georgia, where the couple spent most of their lives.
“I was hesitant, not at all sure that I could be happy here after the dazzle of the White House and the years of stimulating political battles,” she wrote in her 1984 autobiography, First Lady from Plains. But “we slowly rediscovered the satisfaction of a life we had left long before.”
Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter shared a lot of interests together, like bird watching and helping the community through the organization Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for people in need. They were heavily involved with other organizations that offered help, and that required a lot of traveling.
“I get tired,” she said of her travels. “But something so wonderful always happens. To go to a village where they have Guinea worm and go back a year or two later and there’s no Guinea worm, I mean the people dance and sing — it’s so wonderful.”
The Carters were married for 75 long years, and their life story is one of the most beautiful there are.
Rosalynn’s family lived next to Jimmy’s and she was a very good friend with his sister. She remembers that Jimmy’s sister had a photo of him on the wall and she fell in love with that photo showing young Jimmy wearing his uniform.
During a visit of his hometown from the Naval Academy, Jimmy laid eyes on Rosalynn and immediately knew she was the one. Speaking to People, the former president said: “She was beautiful and innocent, and there was a resonance.” They started dating but didn’t marry until she turned 18 because she made a promise to her dying father that she won’t marry before finishing school.
During the first years of marriage, the couple constantly moved places because Jimmy was often deployed at different locations. However, Rosalynn didn’t mind that. In fact, she loved being on the move with him and when he made the decision to give up his career in the Navy, she wasn’t glad. “I had been self-sufficient and independent from my mother and Jimmy’s mother,” she told The New York Times.
Being married for so many years must be a challenge, but the Carters didn’t see it that way. They had always been by each other’s side; during presidency and while he battled cancer. Speaking of the secret to a long and happy marriage, both Rosalynn and Jimmy said that they had never went to bed angry at one another and knew how to enjoy the simple things that many take for granted, like cherishing each other’s company.
“We’ve just grown closer and closer together,” Jimmy said of his relationship with his wife.
We are so very sorry for former president Carter’s loss.
As of Rosalynn, she will always be remembered as a very special person who had done a lot for the country. May she rest in peace.
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Love and Peace