Jimmy Carter’s last moments with Rosalynn Carter, his wife of 77 years

By admin Nov24,2023

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died Sunday at 96 years old with husband, former President Jimmy Carter, who turned 99 last month, by her side at their home in Georgia, their son told The Washington Post.

The Carters celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary this summer, and by then had already been the longest-married presidential couple in United States history for some time. In the wake of Rosalynn Carter’s death, new details emerged this week about her final moments and the former president’s devotion throughout them. 

The couple’s son, James E. Carter III, known as “Chip,” detailed his parents’ last days together in comments to The Post that were published on Wednesday. He said that his father sat beside Rosalynn Carter’s bed, in his wheelchair, on Saturday night as other family members gathered in their bedroom.

“My Dad told her he loved her and thanked her for all the wonderful things she had done,” Chip Carter told the newspaper. “Then he asked us to leave so he could be alone with her.”

Rosalynn Carter entered hospice care at the couple’s Georgia home shortly before her death. The Carter Center shared the news in a statement issued Friday on behalf of the Carters’ grandson, Jason Carter, which said, “She and President Carter are spending time with each other and their family. The Carter family continues to ask for privacy and remains grateful for the outpouring of love and support.”

Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, share a moment aboard his campaign plane in October 1976.

Bettmann via Getty Images

The former first lady was previously diagnosed with dementia, the Carter Center said in May on behalf of the family. She continued to live at home in Plains, the small farming city in central Georgia where both she and her husband grew up and to which they returned later in life. 

The Carter Center announced in February that Jimmy Carter was receiving hospice care at home, following a series of short hospital stays. The charity, which the former president founded in 1982, said in a statement at the time that he “decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention.” The center did not specificy why he had recently had short hospital stays, but the former president had undergone treatment in August 2015 to have a small cancerous mass removed from his liver, but said the following year that he did not need further medical attention after an experimental drug eliminated the cancer.

Chip Carter recalled to the Post conversations with his father over the months that passed since Jimmy Carter himself entered hospice care, saying the former president had expressed concern over whether he would die before his wife, which was something he had not expected before.

“Dad told me several times over the last nine months that he had always thought he would outlive Mom and protect her until she passed, but that now he wasn’t sure that was going to happen — and that upset him,” Chip Carter said. “But he stayed alive. We all told him how proud we were of his relationship with her and of how he looked after her.”

The night before Rosalynn Carter died, her husband sat beside her hospital bed in his wheelchair and held her hand for about 30 minutes after asking their family members to leave their bedroom, said Chip Carter. “I’m sure he was praying,” Chip Carter said. 

Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter signs the guestbook in the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 9, 2002, next to his wife Rosalynn, as members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee look on.

-/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Later on Saturday night, aides helped Jimmy Carter into his own hospital bed and placed it opposite his wife’s with their feet facing each other, so that they could talk, the Washington Post reported. But Rosalynn Carter’s health continued to decline overnight, and the former first lady and revered humanitarian figure died the next afternoon at 2:10 p.m., the Carter Center announced in a statement that same day. The charity said she died “peacefully, with family by her side.”

Jimmy Carter was there when it happened, with Chip Carter recalling that “tears were coming out of his eyes,” according to the Washington Post. Family members spent time in the bedroom in the immediate aftermath of Rosalynn Carter’s death, but then, Chip Carter said, his father asked everyone to clear the room again so that he and his wife could be alone.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” the former president said in a statement after her death released by the Carter Center. “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.”

The Carters first met in Plains when Jimmy Carter was three years old and Rosalynn Carter was just a newborn. Their love story began about a year before their wedding in 1946, when the former president’s younger sister introduced him to the woman who back then went by Rosalynn Smith. She was a family friend. 

Carter Family in 1976
Jimmy Carter with wife Rosalynn Carter and their daughter Amy at the Baptist church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, in 1976.

/ Getty Images

After their first date, Jimmy Carter went home and told his mother, “She’s the girl I want to marry,” according to a detailed account of their relationship published by the White House. And, on July 7, 1946, Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter tied the knot while he was home from school at the U.S. Naval Academy and she was in college. The couple moved several times during his Navy service, with each of their four children born in different U.S. states. After the Navy, the Carter family returned to live in Georgia and ran Carter’s Warehouse, a seed and farm supply company in Plains, along with the farm that Jimmy Carter inherited.

Rosalynn Carter was a member of her husband’s campaign team when he ran for the Georgia Senate in 1962 and continued to play an active role in his political career as he went on to become governor of Georgia in 1970 and, eventually, president of the United States. The former president once described his wife as “much more political,” and Rosalynn, for her part, once said of campaigning, “I love it. … I had the best time. I was in all the states in the United States. I campaigned solid every day the last time we ran,” according to the Associated Press

In addition to their respective professional legacies, with Rosalynn Carter remembered especially for the work she did to bring issues surrounding mental health, without stigma, into the national conversation at a time when doing so was particularly unprecedented, the Carters were known publicly for their strong and lasting bond, as well as their joint philanthropic endeavors. 

Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter at work renovating a tenement on the East 6th Street in the East Village in Manhattan on September 4, 1984.
New York, N.Y.: Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter at work renovating a tenement on the East 6th Street in the East Village in Manhattan on September 4, 1984. The couple were working with Habitat for Humanity.

Jim Peppler/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Together, Rosalynn Carter and Jimmy Carter helped expand Habitat for Humanity, an organization focused on affordable housing, and grew the Carter Center, their charity whose mission centers on human rights and “the alleviation of human suffering.”

“Rosalynn Carter’s deep compassion for people everywhere and her untiring strength on their behalf touched lives around the world. We have heard from thousands of you since her passing,” her family said in a statement after her death. “Thank you all for joining us in celebrating what a treasure she was, not only to us, but to all humanity.”

By admin

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