Dan Horn was in his mid-20s when in 1986 he wrote a letter to Rosalynn Carter, who passed away on Sunday, Nov. 19.
To his surprise, he received a response from the former first lady with an invitation to visit her in Plains, Georgia.
“The two of us had lunch and it was like someone I had known all of my life,” Horn said. “When I was leaving, she said: ‘Make sure you keep in touch.’”
That’s how Horn started a friendship with the Carter family that spanned decades, even after Horn became president-principal at St. Genevieve Parish Schools — a preschool, elementary school, and high school in Panorama City, visiting Rosalynn and Jimmy on numerous occasions, accompanied by students and his entire faculty of more than 100 people.
On Friday, the Carter Center said Rosalynn entered hospice care at home. In late May, the center announced that Rosalynn was diagnosed with dementia but lived “happily at home with her husband, enjoying spring in Plains and visits with loved ones,” according to the statement by the center.
Rosalynn was the lifelong partner of Jimmy Carter who served as the 39th President of the U.S. from 1977 to 1981, and visited the school on several occasions. In 2010, Carter was on a tour promoting his new book, “White House Diary,” when he stopped by St. Genevieve Parish Schools.
“Can anybody guess what is my favorite high school in America?” the former president asked as he entered a gymnasium filled with St. Genevieve Parish Schools teachers, students and parents, according to the school’s website.
“I heard a couple of days ago that she was in hospice care and I had a feeling it was probably going to come fast,” Horn said in a phone interview. “A lot of people who know the Carters say that he didn’t want to leave her alone. All of us know them are thinking that he’s probably not going to be far behind.”
The Carters returned to the school again in February 2013 after being invited for a tour, which included the unveiling of “the Carter Wall” which chronicled the unique relationship the school has established with the Carters over the years.
One of the quotes on the wall is from Rosalynn saying: “I love St. Genevieve.”
“I can tell you that certainly the community of St. Genevieve and Dan Horn loved Rosalynn Carter very much,” Horn said.
The last time the Carters visited the school was in February 2018 after Rosalynn allowed students to work on a documentary about her life.
Carter, who is 99, has been in hospice care at their home for months. In February, the longest-living president announced that he checked out of the hospital and entered hospice care at his home in Plains. He celebrated his most recent birthday on Oct. 1.
Horn said he would remember Rosalynn as an “extremely spiritual woman who loved our Lord. She lived a great life and lived her life dedicated to serving God.”