Jimmy Carter Recalls First Date with His Wife — And Telling His Mom He Knew He'd Marry Rosalynn
And that was all the former president needed to know that Rosalynn was the one.
In a new interview with The Washington Post, Carter, 93, recalls seeing his wife for the first time at the Plains United Methodist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, where the couple returned after Carter left office in 1981.
Carter was home from the Naval Academy and asked out young Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on the spot.
They went to a movie together, and Carter recalls telling his mother the next morning that he was going to marry Rosalynn.
“I didn’t know that for years,” Rosalynn chimed in with a smile.
Still smitten with his future wife, Carter returned to the Navy, where he coined the acronym “ILYTG” to express his passions.
” ‘I love you the goodest.’ That’s what my mother and daddy used to say back and forth, and I picked it up with Rosa,” the nation’s 39th president told PEOPLE in 2014 in an exclusive joint interview with his wife.
The monogram is inscribed on a compact he once gave his bride, the future first lady, that today is on display at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta.
“Now all our children do the same thing – ILYTG on the phone or in emails. They generally just put the initials,” Carter said. “And sometimes they change the initials and make you guess what they’re talking about.”
The couple told PEOPLE at the time that they attributed their long marriage to giving each other space, as well as their shared passion for service.
Now in their 90s, the former first couple remain dedicated to helping others, with Carter still teaching Sunday school at a local church, and helping build homes for Habitat for Humanity as recently as last year.
The Washington Post profile details the couple’s modest and purposeful life today, which includes paper-plate dinners, flying commercial, and spending quiet afternoons in their $167,000 two-bedroom rancher.
Asked by the Post if there is anything they want but don’t have, Carter replied, “I can’t think of anything.”
Turning to Rosalynn, he asked, “And you?”
“No, I’m happy,” she said.