A final farewell: Former first lady Rosalynn Carter laid to rest following private funeral

PLAINS, Ga. — On the final day of honoring her life, former first lady Rosalynn Carter was laid to rest Wednesday following a private service for her family, close friends and invited guests.

Mrs. Carter died on Nov. 19 at the age of 96 at the family’s home in Plains. That is also where she was buried.

The funeral was held inside Maranatha Baptist Church, where the Carter family had attended for years, with former President Jimmy Carter teaching Sunday School for much of that time.

The former president was seated in his wheelchair in the front row, looking on one last time as he said goodbye to his wife of 77 years.

[PHOTOS: Private funeral held in Plains for former First Lady Rosalynn Carter]

Maranatha Pastor Tony Lowden opened the service with a tribute to the life and legacy of who he called “the greatest first lady.”

Rosalynn Carter wasn’t “just the first lady of the White House,” he told the gathering. “She served every nation around the world.”

The pastor, describing her competitive streak, spoke to the mourners in what he imagined to be the voice of Rosalynn Carter: “She would say to you today, ‘don’t grieve for me, for now, I’m free. ... Jimmy tried to beat me here. I got here first. I won the prize. Tell him I beat him and I’m waiting on him.’”

“But,” Lowden continued, “she would say ‘don’t stop — there’s too many homeless people in the world. There’s still too many people who don’t have equal rights.’ ... She would tell you don’t stop. Become that virtuous woman. And men, if you’re listening, make room for the virtuous woman.”

Music filled the 300-seat small-town church as loved ones shared anecdotes of Mrs. Carter, first from their eldest son Jack.


“I met my mother when she was a teenager. In the six weeks before she turned 20, she did a good job,” Jack Carter said. “It occurs to me that dad got used to mom disagreeing with him because she was really good at it. And she became a partner in the true sense of the word, where they had equal footing.”

Several speakers addressed the former first lady’s resilience, perhaps most evident when her husband was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980.

“When they lost re-election, she thought the best part of her life was over,” Josh Carter said of his grandmother.

Then came The Carter Center and its work on human rights, “and she knew that was the best part of their life.”

Channel 2′s Jorge Estevez was in Plains for Wednesday’s service. He said one of the most touching moments of the day was when Rosalynn Carter’s body came out of the church for the very last time.

He said you could hear A pin drop. It was just utter silence.

As the motorcade made its way to Carter’s final resting place at the “Carter Compound,” the family got out of the vehicles and walked a portion of the way through town in homage to Mr. and Mrs. Carter, who were the first President and First Lady to walk the route during their inauguration into the White House.

Mrs. Carter was buried following a private graveside service in a plot the couple will share, visible from the front porch of the home they built before Jimmy Carter’s first political campaign in 1962.

The Carters married in 1946 and became the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history. Jimmy Carter is the longest-lived president; Rosalynn Carter was the second-longest-lived first lady, trailing only Bess Truman, who died at 97.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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