PLAINS, Ga. — Plains is sad, in the words of one of Jimmy Carter’s close friends.
it is a small town with big pride for their favorite son. Residents are cherishing their years and decades with Mr. Carter, their neighbor, as they offer prayers for him and his family. And they resolve, they say, to be kinder to people, the way he's always been.
“I thank him so much," said Cicele Terry on Sunday.
She was fighting back tears outside Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains.
Terry lives in Columbus, Ga. She commutes to and from Maranatha every week -- nearly an hour each way -- all because years ago one Sunday, she was visiting the church, and Jimmy Carter walked up to her and personally asked her to join.
She called that a kindness that she has always treasured, and she is thinking of him now, as he is in hospice care at home in Plains.
“No sorrow, just thankfulness," she said, "just thankfulness, but tears. I’m just thankful for the example and the life that he’s led.”
During Sunday morning services, the congregation said prayers for Mr. Carter.
“And God, we thank you for his service to this nation," said the prayer leader, retired pastor Hugh DeLoach.
Jimmy Carter taught Sunday School at Maranatha, ever since leaving the White House in 1981.
“Lord, we’d be amiss this morning if we did not lift President Carter to you. Lord we pray that you be with his family, Lord, and those around him," said Pastor DeLoach.
“Plains is sad, we’re all sad, we knew this day was coming," said a close, family friend, Jan Williams. "He was a great teacher. No matter whether he said it, people saw how he lived it.”
In Downtown Plains on Sunday afternoon, visitors browsed the history, and the souvenir shops, and the stores selling peanuts.
Sebrena Thomas drove up from Tallahassee, wanting to understand, she said, the town that made the man.
“You know, he’s been around so long, and he’s done so many great things for America," she said. Then she spoke as if he is her friend, too: “My family’s prayers, and America’s prayers are with you, and we just pray for peace.”
“He was a very humble person, he was a person that, color doesn’t mean anything," said Winston Bailey after church. Bailey also commutes to Maranatha from Columbus. He said his prayers are for Mr. Carter’s comfort.
Zac Steele joined him.
“To a lot of people, he’s President, he’s Mr. Jimmy Carter," Steele said. "To us, he’s JC, to us he’s a friend.”
Some are writing personal notes to Mr. Carter, and making homemade cards. A member of the family then hand-delivers the notes and cards to him -- genuine caring for a beloved neighbor.