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US 'A fighter': President Jimmy Carter's neighbors know they'll say goodbye one day, but not yet

19:40  15 november  2019
19:40  15 november  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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The folks in President Jimmy Carter ' s hometown of Plains, Georgia believe he will bounce back yet again from the latest medical concern. As famous as he is worldwide for his humanitarian efforts, there is no place on Earth where the longest-lived U. S . President is better known than this little burg.

But everything about Jimmy Carter ' s life – what he did as president , and what he' s done since – has proved that "certain moral tone". In the Carters ' family room there' s a Harry Potter book on the coffee table. At Christmas they 're taking the entire family to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal

PLAINS, GEORGIA – Known around the world for fighting deadly diseases, making sure elections are run fairly, and building homes for low-income families, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is a hometown boy at heart.

Just ask those who know him as a peanut farmer first, the 700 or so people who also make their home in this two-block town, with its historic brick storefronts in the shadow of peanut processing plants, surrounded by fields of white cotton and its signature legume.

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"We cherish him as a friend,” Ruth Sanders, program coordinator for the Plains Better Hometown program, said Wednesday, a day after Carter underwent brain surgery at an Atlanta hospital.

As famous as he is worldwide for his humanitarian efforts, there is no place on Earth where the longest-lived U.S. President is better known than this little burg. Here, he and his wife of 73 years, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, are real neighbors.

Every time the 95-year-old takes a fall, fractures his hip or gets his head stitched up — agonizingly common this year — townspeople hold their breath, say a prayer and wonder how many more Sunday School classes he’s got left in him to teach.

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The concern was palpable this week, when Carter underwent surgery to treat a subdural hematoma, the result of a head injury from an October fall at home that required 14 stitches. Since May, he's fallen three times.

“We gasped and we’re holding our breath until we hear what the next word is,” said Ellen Harris, manager of the Plains Historic Inn and Antique Mall.

When Carter's pastor at Maranatha Baptist Church reported later that day he was recuperating and already walking and talking, the town breathed easier, but few if any were surprised. Folks here have faith it's going to take a lot more than brain surgery to keep President Carter down.

“He’s such a fighter, and he’s proven to be, and he just comes back," Harris said. "He's raised the bar for the rest of us."

After the Oct. 6 fall, Carter flew that same day to Nashville to attend the opening ceremonies for the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project for Habitat for Humanity. He spent the next week in the hot sun hammering away on homes.

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No one knows that better than Jimmy Carter , who defied all odds 40 years ago to leap from his peanut farm to Carter flew into Pyongyang on his own over the objections of President Bill Clinton and struck a deal with Kim “ I don’t know what they ’ ll do. Because they want to save their regime.

President Jimmy Carter On December 12, 1974, he announced his candidacy for president of the United States. He won his party' s nomination on the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter volunteer one week a year for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps needy people in the United States

The President is determined, and doesn’t seem to want to stop or slow down, said local veterinarian Frank Pierce. In May, Carter was getting ready for a turkey hunt when he fell, requiring hip replacement surgery. He had another fall Oct. 22, fracturing his pelvis.

“I doubt he has limitations, but when you get to be that age probably a slower pace would be the intelligent way to go,” Pierce kindly chided.

Carter put Plains on the map in 1976 when the farmer turned Georgia governor became the country's 39th President. After his single term in office, he and Rosalynn returned in 1981 to the modest ranch house they built in 1961.

The town, heralded on a sign above Bobby Salter's Plain Peanuts and General Store as the “Home of Jimmy Carter,” is a living breathing Presidential museum. It's hard to miss the iconic peanut statues with his iconic toothy grin, his boyhood farm or even his brother Billy Carter’s old gas station.

Thousands of visitors make the pilgrimage to Plains from places as close as  Tallahassee, an easy three-hour drive, and as far as Beijing, a world away. They come to attend his Sunday School class, stroll flag festooned Main Street, buy political memorabilia and eat peanut butter ice cream.

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Jimmy Carter is just as baffled by the results of the 2016 United States presidential election as any Democrat. Carter did not name Trump explicitly as a president who has been not so truthful, but Colbert and the audiences seemed to get " I don't know about the rest of them ," Carter said .

Jimmy Carter says he prays for President Trump. I never knew it before," Carter answered. Asked by Colbert about what it takes to be president , Carter said he "used Although the remarks seemed in jest, they marked a shift from some of the former president ' s earlier statements about his successor.

Lucky ones have personally met  "Mister Jimmy" and "Miss Rosalynn" — as locals call them — on one of their Friday walks from home to downtown.

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“There’s a stool he would sit on and she would sit in a chair and they would kind of rest,” said Harris, a lifelong resident and friend of the family. “When they would get ready to go they’d grab hands and walk down the sidewalk and visit the other merchants.”

Tourists would be shocked.

“They couldn’t believe the President just walked in the store,” Harris said. “I would say, 'They’re just common people. They’re Plains residents, that’s what they are. They’re just our neighbors.'”

The Carters also like to visit with Pierce at his vet clinic down the street, making sure the Secret Service men stay outside on the curb. When he moved to town more than a decade ago, they immediately invited him to dinner to "make me feel comfortable."

Pierce has been a friend ever since, attending birthday celebrations, and going quail and turkey hunting with the President, always with the bevy of Secret Service agents in tow.

“He likes turkey hunting so I gave him a turkey vest and turkey call,” Pierce said. “He always likes my gifts because I never give him just a tie or a pen.”

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“Ultimately, while the American people overwhelmingly rejected President Carter ,” the memo said , “ they continue to like Jimmy Carter personally.” Today, most Americans are too young to remember Carter ’ s presidency firsthand and know him more for his active post- presidency , appreciating his

So bye - bye , miss american pie. Drove my chevy to the levee, But the levee was dry. And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye Singin', "this' ll be the day that I die. "this' ll be the day that I die." Did you write the book of love, And do you have faith in God above, If the Bible tells you so?

On their last quail hunt, neither held back.

“We were shooting birds out from under each other, laughing and having a good old time,” Pierce said. “He never spoke sideways about it, even as I was shooting birds out from under him. He never got angry.”

Carter is a normal, down-to-earth person who doesn’t wear his presidency on his sleeve, added Pierce — and he sees others in the same light. “This truly is his hometown, he is as available as anybody else would be in a small town.”

Carter sits on several boards, helps raise money for projects like the new Boys and Girls Club, takes part in fundraising dinners and donates items for auctions, such as the Carter 2020 T-shirt (still constitutionally eligible) given to him by talk show host Stephen Colbert.

Just before his Oct. 1 birthday, he attended the annual Plains Peanut Festival, where he signed more than 500 books.

“Nobody loves this community any more than President Carter and Miss Rosalynn,” said Sanders, who has lived in Plains for nearly 10 years. “They’re involved in everything we do. If we have an event and if it’s at all possible they’re here.”

Townsfolk know he won’t be around a lot longer. In fact, he has been talking to his church and business leaders about how they will carry on after he’s gone.

“Will people around here be devastated? Of course, we will. We will miss him because he comes to everything,” Sanders said.

At every event and parade he stands on the balcony of the Plains Inn, waves at the crowds and welcomes them to town, Harris said. She's got her fingers crossed he will be up and around for the Nov. 30 Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.

“Hopefully he’ll be able to come turn the lights on and stand on the balcony,” she said.

If he makes it or not, few here believe he will be departing on that Gospel Train bound for Glory any time soon.

“I don’t think God is finished with him and I don’t think he’s finished with his work here," Harris said. "He’s still got some work to be done."

Follow Jeffrey Schweers on Twitter: @jeffschweers.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: 'A fighter': President Jimmy Carter's neighbors know they'll say goodbye one day, but not yet

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