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Leila S. Case: Former first lady enjoys birthday celebration

PLAINS – Rosalynn Carter, first lady from Plains, turned 88, and we were there along with friends and family to help her celebrate.
“I’ve never had a birthday quite like this,” said Rosalynn Carter, speaking to the large turnout gathered in the auditorium of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site , the former Plains High School, where she celebrated her birthday Saturday night.
“I’ve celebrated 69 birthdays with him,” she said, as she called her husband President Jimmy Carter on stage.
The evening was indeed perfect and just how a birthday celebration for a lovely lady should be – filled with fantastic musical entertainment presented by the St. Genevieve High School jazz band and choir from Panorama City, California.
“It is great to have them here,” said the former first lady, referring to the students. Broad smiles were everywhere. It was a happy, happy occasion.
Organized by the Friends of Plains Historic Site, the evening began with a festive wine and cheese reception at the Buffalo Café on Main Street.
“I thought it went really well – those students are so talented and Rosalynn was pleased,” said Kim Fuller, the Carters’ niece and one of the event organizers.
The Carters praised St. Genevieve’s talented students.
“They don’t sound like high school musicians but professionals,” said the former president. Indeed they did. They won the top award at the World Strides Heritage Performance Festival in San Francisco last spring, their director told everyone. They played great jazz era pieces such as “Take the A Train,” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “In the Mood” and others that made you want to grab the gal or guy’s hand next to you, in my case my husband Bruce, and dance, dance, dance.
The Carters have had a long association with St. Genevieve High School. The school’s exceptional young musicians have been here many times performing at tributes honoring the Carters in Plains and the historic Rylander Theatre in Americus. Rosalynn Carter recalled the realistic stage effects they used one year for “Singing in the Rain.” She said, “It looked like it was raining right here on this stage.”
Then it was over. The Carters descended the stage, and in true Carter style flashed brilliant smiles and waved a presidential farewell – a poignant conclusion to the week that had just passed.
Out and About: Fun, fun to be back in Plains again and great to glimpse many of the Carter family and friends. Their family has grown through the years to include great-grandchildren now, enough to fill the first few rows of the auditorium. The Carters’ now adult children with the exception of Jack Carter were able to attend. Those I saw and spoke to were sons Chip Carter and his wife, Becky of Decatur, Jeff and Annette Carter, Amy Carter and her husband and children; Jason Carter, Jack’s son and his two young children of Atlanta; Rosalynn’s sister Althea of LaGrange; sister-in-law Sybil Carter of Plains and children Kim Fuller and husband Mark Fuller, Mandy Carter Flynn with son Trey Flynn and daughter Carter Flynn, all of Albany, Janna Carter and daughter Cameron Carter; among others glimpsed were Lee and Karen Kinnamon and son Thomas Kinnamon; Jill Stuckey; Peggy Carson, secretary to the Carters; Ruth Sanders, director of Plains Better Hometown program; Boze and Betty Godwin; longtime friend Betty Pope and her sister, Patsy Winter who has moved to Americus;  Alice Argo; and how special for us to have granddaughter Caroline Herndon.
Elsewhere, Paul and Carole Mott of Americus are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with their family at a formal dinner party at their home Saturday. The conversation will center, I’m sure, on Carole’s formal white wedding dress she made from a Vogue pattern and Paul’s wedding suit that will be on display and the table centerpiece – white roses and magnolia leaves – like those used at their wedding in 1965. Here for the big celebration will be their daughters and sons-in-law, Sheri and Steve Ingram and children Cooper and Ellie of Acworth and Loran and Paul Riley and children Joshua and Sarah of Monroe; smile and say hello to Emily Barr, daughter of Mandy and Wade Barr, who was born last week. Emily is the granddaughter of Mark and Kim Fuller and Wade and Susan Barr; fun seeing Jocelyn Rogers M.D. who was visiting this weekend from Jacksonville; kudos to Jimbo Griffith – a gentleman extraordinaire; and don’t forget to join the Friends of the Rylander Theatre – the annual membership campaign now underway to take advantage of the price break on the season’s shows now through Sept. 17. Join online at www.rylandertheater.org; and the Men’s Club of Calvary Episcopal Church annual barbecue is at 11 a.m. Saturday. Ashley Goodin and Billy Steve Satterfield, lead chefs, and their assistants are serving up mouth-watering barbecue.

Leila S. Case lives in Americus.