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ROSALYNN-CARTER memorial service.JPG
Reuters
USA News

VIP mourners honour lifelong Christian and former US first lady Rosalynn Carter

by Ros Mayfield

Mrs Rosalynn Carter, wife of the former US president, Jimmy Carter, was remembered at a memorial service in Atlanta on Tuesday.  President Joe Biden and other dignitaries joined her 99-year-old husband, who left hospice care for the occasion.  The pair, both devout Christians, served in the White House from 1977-1981.  

Jimmy Carter called his wife "my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished."

Carter and her husband were the longest-married U.S. presidential couple, having wed in 1946 when he was 21 and she was 18.  They both served as Sunday school teachers in their local church, for many years.

The former president arrived at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church using a wheelchair. He sat before his wife's flower-bedecked casket with a blue and white blanket, embroidered with a portrait of Rosalynn, folded on his lap.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, 99

Since his single term as president, Jimmy Carter has lived more post-White House years than any president before him, and Rosalynn played an instrumental role during those years, building the Carter Center nonprofit and the Habitat for Humanity charity.

"The alleviation of suffering has been an integral part of Rosalynn's life for as long as I've known her," Kathryn Cade, a longtime aide and friend, told the audience at the service for the former first lady, who died at age 96 on Nov. 19.

Cade described Rosalynn Carter's work to eradicate Guinea worm disease in West Africa, prevent the loss of habitat for the monarch butterfly and her years of advocacy for mental health and women's equality.

Dignitaries attend former US first lady Rosalynn Carter's memorial
Front row R to L: President Joe Biden, Dr Jill Biden, Bill Clinton,
Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, Melania Trump

Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, was joined in the front two rows by dignitaries of both major U.S. political parties: Biden and his wife, Jill Biden; Vice President Kamala Harris; former President Bill Clinton and former first ladies Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

"Rosalynn Carter would be so pleased to see that she brought all of you together on this day," said Judy Woodruff, a journalist and longtime friend, drawing laughter from the audience. 

As first lady, she often was invited to sit in as an observer at cabinet meetings and political strategy discussions and played a role in his diplomacy in the Middle East and beyond.

"Mom was always well-informed on the issues of the day," Carter's son James Earl "Chip" Carter III told the service, describing her "partnership" with Jimmy Carter during his presidency. "In the White House, mom asked so many questions that he finally said that she should attend cabinet meetings. So she did and caught a lot of flack for that."

Her children and grandchildren recalled fly-fishing trips with Rosalynn Carter and her fondness for using mayonnaise in her recipes, and how her human warmth guided her public service.

She died shortly after entering hospice care at her home in Plains, Georgia. Her family announced in May that she had been diagnosed with dementia. 

Her body lay in repose at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta on Monday.

(additional reporting by Reuters)

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