Why were the Carter family wearing Hawaiian leis at the funeral?

Amy Carter, wearing a lei, descends from the bus with the rest of the Carter family as she arrives at the Maranatha Baptist Church for the last goodbye of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter on Wednesday, Nov. 29. 2023.


Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Amy Carter, wearing a lei, descends from the bus with the rest of the Carter family as she arrives at the Maranatha Baptist Church for the last goodbye of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter on Wednesday, Nov. 29. 2023. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

At Wednesday’s funeral for Rosalynn Carter, many viewers noticed that Carter family members were wearing leis, garlands that are common in Hawaii and much of Polynesia.

It was a nod to the Carter family’s often-forgotten historical connections to Hawaii, where former President Jimmy Carter was stationed for part of his time in the Navy. Chip Carter, one of Rosalynn and Jimmy’s four children, was born in Honolulu. While living in Hawaii, Rosalynn Carter learned hula dancing and even once won a hula dancing contest.

Carter family members follow the hearse after the funeral for Rosalynn Carter. A private interment followed at the Carter residence, Wednesday, November 29, 2023, in Plains. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

According to the Carter Center, close friends of the Carters who live in Hawaii offered to have leis shipped to Georgia for the family.

”The family was happy to receive them and eager to wear them,” said Matthew De Galen, the Carter Center’s spokesman. “Given Pastor Tony Lowden’s description of the funeral as a celebration of Mrs. Carter’s life, the festive flowers seemed quite appropriate.”

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