ATLANTA — A host of former presidents, first ladies and dignitaries honored the life of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at a service at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church at Emory University on Tuesday.
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Carter died on Nov. 19 at the age of 96 at the family’s home in Plains.
Guests included her husband of 77 years, former President Jimmy Carter, as well as President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former First Lady Michelle Obama, former first lady Laura Bush and former first lady Melania Trump. Multiple members of Congress and Georgia officials are also in attendance.
Former President Carter sat in the front row of the church between two of his children, Amy and Chip, who intermittently held his hands. He was tucked in snugly under a blanket featuring a drawing of his late wife. Carter, 99, has been in hospice care for 10 months.
The service featured several musical selections that were carefully selected by the former First Lady herself. Longtime friends of the Carters, Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood sand John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Her children and grandchildren gave moving tributes, remembering their mother and grandmother as a “hero” and nurturer of her family who was equally adventurous and committed to a number of causes worldwide.
The couple’s son, James “Chip” Carter welcomed the crowd with sweet anecdotes about his parents’ 77-year marriage.
“When Dad asked her to marry him for the second time she said yes, but she expected him to provide her with a life of adventure,” he said.
Daughter Amy Carter tearfully read a letter her father wrote to her mother when he was in the service.
“But when I see you, I fall in love with you all over again,” Amy Carter read. “Does that seem strange to you? It doesn’t to me. Goodbye darling, until tomorrow, Jimmy.”
Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander said the tribute was a chance for people to say “thank you.”
“Mrs. Carter traveled with a lot of people, and left an impression on a lot of people, and that is who is here to celebrate with her,” Alexander said.
Emory University was important to Mrs. Carter. DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond was grateful she chose to make Glenn Memorial UMC one of her final stops.
“A wonderful, beautiful day to celebrate a beatuiful life,” Thurmond said.
Channel 2′s Richard Elliot was outside the church as a stream of notable people entered the church. Martin Luther King III was there as well as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
The Carters’ grandson, former state senator Jason Carter delivered touching remarks at the funeral. He told the audience that his grandmother always moved forward, even when slowed by age or a cane she called her treking pole, and that is something everyone should remember.
“She was made for these long journeys,” Carter said. “I watched her walk down that hall with that treking police and I followed her and I just pray that we never lose sight of that path.”
From here, Carter was taken back to her hometown where there will be a private funeral Wednesday at Maranatha Baptist Church.
Channel 2′s George Estevez spoke to Kim Fuller, Rosalynn’s neice, about what is on tap for the private family funeral. Fuller usually does the Sunday service, but for this service, she will sing in the choir and then sit in the pews along with her family, including uncle Jimmy Carter.
“This is someone who has been one of his everythings for a long long time, over 77 years, and that’s just each other, so I can’t even imagine how he feels. I just can’t even imagine,” Fuller said.
Fuller said the family will play some of Mrs. Carter’s favorite music.
“Some of our favorite people will be there and I think it’ll start the healing process. I really do,” Fuller said. “It’s gonna be very different because in the back of my mind, I’m always gonna know that she’s not gonna be able to (come). They were able to come, she won’t be coming. I’m praying a lot and trying to get myself situated.”
Here are key moments of the memorial as they happened:
The connector southbound and the ramps are shut down to allow Vice President Kamala Harris’ motorcade to travel through Atlanta.
The procession is now traveling back to Plains via Macon.
Traffic red alert on I-85, I-285, I-75, GA-400 (Cobb Cloverleaf) has all lanes closed to allow President Biden’s motorcade to travel from Emory University back to Dobbins Air Force Base.
The casket was escorted out of the church as “Wind Beneath My Wings” played in the background. The hearse and motorcade are now headed back to Plains, where the former First Lady will be buried in the family cemetery after a private funeral service.
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, who are longtime friends of the Carters, performed “Imagine” by John Lennon.
Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter, gave the eulogy for his grandmother. He described her as a nurturer, adventurer and a “cool grandma.”
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chamber Chorus performs “Great is Thy Faithfulness” hymn.
The Carters’ daughter Amy Lynn Carter then read poem that her father Jimmy Carter wrote about Rosalynn.
Former PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff acknowledges the former presidents and first ladies in attendance to which the crowd applauds.
Woodruff goes on to speak about meeting Rosalynn Carter for the first time and how Rosalynn carried herself as a first lady in Georgia and the White House.
“My respect and admiration for her goes back to the very beginning,” Woodruff said. “A first lady who understood the weight of her words and especially her actions.”
Kathryn Cade worked as Rosalynn’s Director of Projects. She spoke about Carter dedicating her life to helping others and her love of butterflies.
James “Chip” Carter III is delivering the welcome and sharing memories of his mother, calling her his “hero.”
Former President Jimmy Carter has just been wheeled into the church and taken his place on the front row, his daughter Amy and son James by his side.
The former president has been in hospice care for the last 10 months.
The Carter grandchildren have lined up outside the church to serve as honorary pallbearers. They include Jason, Sarah, Margaret, James Earl, Joshua and James Carleton Carter, Hugo Wentzel, John Chuldenko, Casey Gallagher, Errol Kelly and Sarah Reynolds.
Armed Forces Body Bearer Teams from Joint Task Force-National Capital Region are carrying the caskett. Each team consists of military personnel from the following units:
· 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), based out of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.
· U.S. Marine Corps Ceremonial and Guard Company, based out of Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
· U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard, based out of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.
· U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, based out of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.
· U.S. Space Force Honor Guard, based out of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.
· U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, based out of Alexandria, Va.
The official program for the service has been released. The former First Lady is said to have carefully helped to plan her service with quotes and musical selections.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens have arrived at the church. Sen. Raphael Warnock is also in attendance.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank has arrived at the church.
The hearse carrying former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has arrived at the church.
Former President Bill Clinton and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have arrived at the church.
Former Atlanta Mayor and United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Luther King III and Garth Brooks have all arrived at the church. Brooks was carrying his guitar.
The motorcade has left for the church.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former First Lady Michelle Obama all greeted each other on the tarmac at Dobbins Air Force base and got into several cars that will make up the motorcade
The casket containing former First Lady Rosalynn Carter is preparing to leave for the church from the Carter Center.
Former President Jimmy Carter has left his home in Plains and is en route to his wife’s memorial service in Atlanta. He is accompanied by his doctor, according to ABC News.
Air Force One has touched down at Dobbins Air Force base in Marietta, where President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will leave for the church by motorcade.
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