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Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter returned to Georgia hometown for burial

Members of an Armed Forces body bearer team moves the casket after the funeral service for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter at Maranatha Baptist Church, in Plains, Georgia, U.S. November 29, 2023. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
Members of an Armed Forces body bearer team moves the casket after the funeral service for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter at Maranatha Baptist Church, in Plains, Georgia, U.S. November 29, 2023. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
Sumter County High School students hold thank you cards from the Carter family to wellwishers for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, wife of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in downtown Plains, in Plains, Georgia, U.S., November 29, 2023. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Sumter County High School students hold thank you cards from the Carter family to wellwishers for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, wife of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in downtown Plains, in Plains, Georgia, U.S., November 29, 2023. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Sumter County High School students hold thank you cards from the Carter family to wellwishers for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, wife of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in downtown Plains, in Plains, Georgia, U.S., November 29, 2023. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Sumter County High School students hold thank you cards from the Carter family to wellwishers for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter, wife of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in downtown Plains, in Plains, Georgia, U.S., November 29, 2023. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
An honor guard from the Georgia State Patrol stand at the casket before the funeral service for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter at Maranatha Baptist Church, in Plains, Georgia, U.S. November 29, 2023. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
An honor guard from the Georgia State Patrol stand at the casket before the funeral service for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter at Maranatha Baptist Church, in Plains, Georgia, U.S. November 29, 2023. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
Members of an Armed Forces body bearer team moves the casket after the funeral service for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter at Maranatha Baptist Church, in Plains, Georgia, U.S. November 29, 2023. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
Members of an Armed Forces body bearer team moves the casket after the funeral service for former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter at Maranatha Baptist Church, in Plains, Georgia, U.S. November 29, 2023. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS

By Maria Alejandra Cardona

PLAINS, Georgia (Reuters) - A private funeral was held on Wednesday for Rosalynn Carter at a church in her hometown of Plains, Georgia, marking the end of three days of tributes celebrating the life and humanitarian work of the former U.S. first lady, who died at the age of 96.

Uniformed officers from local police and sheriff's departments silently lined a street in the tiny rural birthplace of former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn, his wife of 77 years.

A group of high school students and other residents of Plains, home to a few hundred people, waved small U.S. flags as the funeral cortege left the Maranatha Baptist Church for an interment at the Carter residence.

Residents of the town, adorned with murals of Jimmy Carter and other tributes to its most famous son, recalled Rosalynn as a humble neighbor who helped mow the lawns and organize the food bank at the Carters' church.

"They were down to earth people that could really spend time with anyone from whatever background and make you feel comfortable, make you feel loved," said Bren Dubay, a friend of the Carters and director of the nearby Koinonia Farm, a Christian charity that provides food and shelter.

Dubay joined others along the cortege route, holding pictures of the presidential couple and signs that read: "God bless you, Mrs. Carter."

PARTNER TO THE PRESIDENT

On Monday, Rosalynn Carter lay in repose at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta. On Tuesday, her 99-year-old husband made a rare public appearance since entering hospice care to attend a tribute service in Atlanta, joined by President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, four former first ladies and former President Bill Clinton.

During that service, mourners recalled Rosalynn Carter's prominent role during her husband's 1977-1981 presidency, in which she became a champion of mental health services, and the humanitarian work the Carters devoted themselves to after leaving the White House.

The couple worked to eliminate Guinea worm disease from West Africa and build affordable homes through the non-profit Habitat for Humanity. She took a special interest in protecting the degraded habitat of the monarch butterfly.

(Reporting by Maria Alejandra Cardona in Plains and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Elijah Nouvelage in Plains; Editing by Richard Chang)