'So sweet and so approachable': Memorial for former first lady Carter starts in Southwest Georgia
Former first lady Rosalynn Carter is being remembered this week with a three-day long memorial service that, by its end, will see a motorcade make stops in Plains, Americus and Atlanta.
The official tributes started on Monday when the Carter family and others, in a motorcade carrying Mrs. Carter’s casket, made its way from Phoebe Sumter Medical Center and through Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus for a wreath laying ceremony.
Carter attended the university in the 1940s. As part of her advocacy for better mental health access, she helped establish the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, now housed on campus, in 1987.
CEO of the institute, Jennifer Olsen, remembered Carter’s commitment to the institute’s mission, both nationally and locally.
“Every Thursday when we would talk, it would be often about policy or how to engage with this agency or that company,” Olsen said. “And then she would end the conversation asking about a caregiver in our very small town of Plains. So, like, did you check on this person? Did you bring them a casserole?”
The institute aims to connect caregivers of those who are aging, disabled or ill with resources to make their lives more manageable. That includes training for caregivers of dementia patients, stress management coaching and support groups.
About 1 in 5 adults in the United States are in caregiving roles, and most aren’t compensated or trained to do so. Olsen said Carter recognized that.
“I think she kind of embodied this idea of like to pay attention to that invisible population,” Olsen said.
Right next door to the institute is the Rosalynn Carter Health and Human Sciences Complex, where students study to get degrees in nursing, psychology and sociology.
“Every morning I just see her and feel empowered,” nursing student Ashley Carag said, referring to a bronze statue of Rosalynn Carter that sits in front of the school building. “I’m not from here. I didn't know about her. But coming to this little town, you would know all the opportunities she has established on this campus.”
Carag said she and other students had the opportunity to volunteer with Rosalynn Carter during an annual food bank in downtown Plains.
What stood out to them? How “humble” Carter was.
“We didn't even know she was there at first … no one made a big deal,” business student Lauren Shepherd said. “She was, you know, 93, 94 at this point. And we took a picture, and she was so sweet and so approachable.”
Rosalynn Carter will lie in repose at the Carter Center and will be buried in Plains during a private service on Wednesday.
And earlier version of this story incorrectly read: Rosalynn Carter will lie in repose at the Georgia Capitol and will be buried in Plains during a private service on Wednesday.