Michiana reacts to death of Rosalynn Carter and her legacy

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter helped build more than 4,300 homes with Habitat for Humanity.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 12:36 AM EST
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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) - Habitat for Humanity was central to the work the Carters did post-presidency.

Five years ago, that work brought them here to Michiana, where the Carters were part of a team that built 41 homes in Mishawaka and South Bend.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter dedicated the last 40 years to helping everyday Americans fulfill their dreams and become homeowners. One of the communities they helped build is in Mishawaka, off of Byrkit Ave.

Cleora Taylor lives in the house that President Carter worked on himself in 2018, also known as the ‘House that Carter built.’

“She was always by his side,” says Cleora Taylor. “When I met her, she actually came up and grabbed me like this; ‘oh, she works at the White House,’ and I was like, oh my gosh, she is amazing. They were so down to Earth and so easily approachable.”

Taylor says while hearing of Mrs. Carter’s death saddens her, she knows Rosalynn’s legacy will continue to live on.

“It was pretty devastating, but she lived a wonderful life, and she helped people, so her impact on the world is going to always remain, and she’s always going to be remembered for all the great things that she’s done,” Taylor said. “And I’m just so blessed that me and my family got the opportunity to meet her because to meet someone with such an impact on the world. It definitely helped me as a person and as a mother. The neighborhood, it’s a great neighborhood, it’s just amazing, just amazing to be a part of such a great thing.”

She also says she is inspired by the Carters and the work to which they devoted the second half of their lives.

“I just wish to be able to do the things that they did at their age when I get that age,” Taylor said. “To be able to get out and give back and care; to care to get people affordable living and care to have people become homeowners, and have a piece of their own land, a piece of the world, have a piece of the pie. They helped me do that, so she’s going to be truly missed. The legacy is going to go on forever, and it just shows you how great people can be.”

The former president and first lady were in Mishawaka when Jimmy was 94 and Rosalynn was 91. Locals say it’s incredible that they continued building houses well into their 90s.

Other locals tell us that the Carters spent time getting to know everyone working with Habitat for Humanity.

“In regard to Carter, looking at his presidency, he’s one of the only, if not the sole president, who did more for his country after he left office,” said Laura Morris, who lives in a home that Habitat for Humanity helped build in Mishawaka. “He used his position as a force for good, and Rosalynn was right there with him. They took the time to go from house to house and speak with every family. It was such a great honor to meet them.”

Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood released a statement of condolence on Sunday regarding the death of First Lady Rosalynn Carter:

“Jaimi and I were saddened to hear about the passing of our friend, former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter. Having gotten the opportunity to meet and get to know Rosalynn, she inspired us with her devotion to family, dedication to public service and as a champion of causes close to our hearts such as mental health and affordable housing. We will always fondly remember her and the great example she set for us.

Rosalynn touched and transformed many communities around the world with her service; by Mishawaka is no exception. The Fields of Highland Neighborhood wouldn’t be there without the Carters and We will always remember and celebrate her life well-lived as we continue to expand that great community. On behalf of the citizens of Mishawaka, Jaimi and I send our hearts and prayers to President Carter, their family and all of our grieving nation as we mourn the loss of this great lady.”

Mayor Dave Wood - Mishawaka (R)

President Carter and Rosalynn were married for more than 77 years.

Rosalynn Carter was 96 years old.