Former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter passes away

Former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the wife of ex-President Jimmy Carter, has died at the age of 96.

The Carter Centre confirmed in a statement that she died peacefully with her family by her side.

On Friday, it was reported that she had entered a hospice care home in the state of Georgia, and was spending time with her 99-year-old husband, who has been in hospice care since February.

Carter was diagnosed with dementia in May.

The longest-married first couple marked their 77th wedding anniversary in July.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” said Carter in the statement.

“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.”

Carter was born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927.

She married Jimmy Carter on July 7, 1946 and they had four children.

The Carters’ son, Chip, described her as a loving mother, extraordinary first lady and “a great humanitarian in her own right”.

“She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today.”

She is also survived by 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, after losing a grandson in 2015.

When her husband began his political career in the 1960s – first as Georgia state senator, governor, and later US president – Carter was focused on raising mental health awareness and reducing the stigma attached to people with mental illnesses.

As first lady of Georgia she was a member of a governor’s commission to improve services for the mentally ill, and as US First Lady she became honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, which was key to the passage of a 1980 act that helped fund local mental health centres.

After leaving Washington, she and her husband founded the Carter Centre in 1982, through which she continued her advocacy work for mental health, early childhood immunisation and other humanitarian causes.

The couple were also key figures in the Habitat For Humanity charity, helping build homes for families in need.

They received recognition for their humanitarian work in 2002 when Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a 2013 interview with US TV network C-SPAN, she said: “I hope our legacy continues, more than just as first lady, because the Carter Centre has been an integral part of our lives.

“And our motto is waging peace, fighting disease and building hope. And I hope that I have contributed something to mental health issues and help improve a little bit the lives of people living with mental illnesses.” (BBC)