Rosalynn Carter, mental health champion, philanthropist and former first lady, dies at 96

According to The Carter Center, on Sunday, at the age of 96, former first lady and persistent advocate for mental health reform Rosalynn Carter passed away.

Former President Jimmy Carter remarked, "Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished." When I needed it, she was there to offer me sound advice and positive reinforcement. For as long as Rosalynn remained in existence, I had constant assurance that I was loved and cherished.

The Carter Center said Friday that the former first lady entered hospice. Her dementia was diagnosed in May. After many hospital stints, her husband started home hospice in February.

Reagan beat Carter in a landslide four years after his election. His one tenure in office featured a unique peace pact with Israel and Egypt that persists today, but also high inflation and the Iran hostage crisis. Rosalynn stayed with him and whispered.

“No one supported President Carter more, and their partnership exemplified loyalty and fidelity. Her mental health destigmatization legacy is significant. We offer our sympathies to President Carter and his family, the couple stated in a statement.

After leaving the White House, the pair monitored elections in Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea and worked to eradicate Guinea worm and other neglected tropical illnesses.Jimmy Carter earned 2002's Nobel Peace Prize.

She fought for mental health equity and access, which will be Rosalynn Carter's greatest legacy. She also worked at Georgia Southwestern State University's Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving to assist disabled and ill families and professionals.

After his brain cancer diagnosis in 2015, the 39th president was questioned about his best achievement. He said marrying Rosalynn was “that’s the pinnacle of my life.”

Growing up, Rosalynn was poor. Her dressmaker mother and car mechanic father died of cancer when she was 13. She helped raise her younger siblings and thought her childhood over once her father died.

Rosalynn relocated frequently and maintained a big home as a naval officer's wife. The Carters had three children quickly: John William (“Jack”) a year after their Norfolk wedding, James Earl (“Chip”) III in Hawaii three years later, and Donnel Jeffrey (“Jeff”) in New London, Connecticut, in 1952. Amy Lynn, their only daughter, was born in 1967, a year after Carter lost his first Georgia governorship run.

After his father died, Jimmy Carter withdrew from an exclusive nuclear submarine program in Schenectady, New York, to return to Plains in 1953 to manage the family farm. He moved the family without Rosalynn's consent. Rosalynn was so angry she refused to talk to him the whole way south.

She soon began numbering the president's jokes to prevent him from repeating them. She even took memory lessons to remember faces and names and drafted thank-you notes to campaign supporters her husband met. To prepare her remarks, she worked till dawn.

The Carter Center's director of research, Steven Hochman, said Rosalynn publicly disagreed with her husband throughout the years. In speeches, the former president would say that one of his primary school teachers told her students that “any child could be president.”

I missed having Jimmy in the Oval Office taking care of our country," she stated. When he was there, I felt more secure than I ever had before. Since he was president, I am able to continue using the bully pulpit to advocate for causes that are important to me. Life is fantastic right now.

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