In Plains, family and neighbors grieve the loss of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and celebrate her global legacy.
PLAINS, Ga. — In Plains, U.S. flags are now at half-staff outside the Carter residence and in front of the row of businesses downtown.
Family and neighbors are speaking of their sadness, tears— and their gratitude for Rosalynn Carter and all she has meant to the nation, the world, and to Plains.
“There are moments when I’m not okay, but there’ve been some good moments, too, sharing memories,” said Kim Fuller, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter’s niece— the daughter of Jimmy’s late brother, Billy.
As Fuller walks through her hometown of Plains now and hears about the worldwide tributes to Rosalynn, she says it fills her with gratitude and humility.
“A more vivid understanding of what kind of family I’m a part of. When you’re growing up, you don’t really realize you just take everything for granted,” Fuller said. “But the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve listened to her and seen what she’s done throughout the world, with the stances she’s taken, I’m very humbled by that. And very proud.”
Fuller said she is proud that visitors now come to Plains not only to learn about the 39th President and honor him but also to learn about and honor Mrs. Carter and all she accomplished for the world.
“I want the world to see her graciousness, I want them to remember her kindness, I want them to remember the fact that she stood for people with mental illness and caregiving,” Fuller said. “I just want them to remember what kind of true Southern woman she was… A strong warrior…”
One of the Carters’ close friends, Jill Stuckey— who is superintendent of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Park in Plains— visited the family Monday morning at their home. The home Rosalynn and Jimmy built more than 60 years ago.
“President Carter is missing his best friend, the love of his life, of 77-plus years,” Stuckey said. “It’s devastating and something he will never recover from.”
Stuckey said that no one has cared more about Plains and its residents than its two famous natives, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter, who are concerned about the future of Plains and whether Plains would still attract visitors after they are gone.
“They were so concerned that in the early 2000s, they announced that they would be buried here,” Stuckey said. “They’re going to be buried on a little hill in front of their house overlooking a pond that they built. So they care about tourism in Plains, economic development, even in their death. It’s still a shock. But we want people to come and learn about two of the greatest people who ever walked the face of this earth.”
Stuckey underscored what the family is seeing— the history of Plains is now as much about the former first lady as it is about the former president, the man who has always told people that she was the secret to all he ever accomplished.