Linda Campbell decorated the Lions Club Christmas tree in her small hometown just as she would any other Thanksgiving week, but this was no ordinary Monday in late November.
All around the town of Plains, neighbors mourned the death of their matriarch, former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, while worrying about their patriarch, former President Jimmy Carter.
“We’ve prayed for them every day for a long time,” said Campbell, 75, as another lifelong Plains resident, Lee Johnson, lowered the U.S. and Georgia state flags that fly in front of the downtown commercial district.
Rosalynn Carter died at home Sunday after her physical health declined rapidly as she lived with dementia in recent months. She was 96. The former president, who is 99, has been in home hospice care since February.
It was not immediately clear Monday whether Jimmy Carter will be able to attend the public services for his wife next week in Sumter County and Atlanta.
For months, townspeople anticipated losing him first. Now, with Rosalynn’s death, they and the extended Carter family are embracing the opportunity to celebrate a woman who was so often defined by her husband but who carved her own path locally and globally.
“She was an incredibly humble person — the epitome of grace,” said Tim Buchanan, a cousin of Rosalynn’s whose mother remained close to her throughout her life. “Her fingerprints are on things all over this community.”