Thursday, July 12, 2007

Godspeed, Pat - say hello to Ladybird for us

I was a little surprised to find tears in my eyes as I heard of Pat Fordice's demise. She served as the first lady to a recent governor that I found almost the most loathesome in my memory (only surpassed by one other).

She and I shared very little in the way of political beliefs, but her gutsiness, her countless hours spent with various charitable endeavors, and her campaign to keep Mississippi's highways and byways clean and beautiful endeared her to all Mississippians, to this Mississippian. Political differences become moot at times.

This was *some* strong lady, the proverbial lemonade-maker; just remembering brings a smile to my face. Her ex-husband, when Governor, called a press conference to tell everyone (before he told her) that they were getting a divorce and that she would be leaving the governor's mansion. She promptly called her own press conference and said that she was not going anywhere.

She didn't, but he eventually did; he built a house for himself and his "next" wife, and essentially ended up living there while Pat lived in the governor's mansion. She lived there with grace while he made a public laughingstock of himself with his antics.

He once infamously chased a newsman (with cameraman in tow) down his driveway - yes, the driveway of the house that supposedly belonged to his "friend" - in his underwear, threatening to whip his ass. That was some embarrassing picture for Mississippi to have showing on the nightly news. We won't even bring up his accident on the way back from one of his "visits" to a Memphis bar with his friend, and his subsequent (convenient) loss of memory.

Pat, just as infamously, became the poster woman for the campaign to beautify and clean up our highways, and the phrase "I'm not your Mama, PICK IT UP" became part of our everyday language here after the string of public service ads she made for that campaign. Thank you, Pat, and don't worry, even if your gracious and funny TV personna didn't quite erase the ugly picture your ex-husband left on our collective psyche's, it came close.

He died a while back and caused hardly a ripple of attention. Her funeral will be huge; she was touted as the essense of courage and grace under fire, and he, well, he ended up the butt of bad jokes, when he wasn't being one.

Rest in peace, Pat, you might not have been as famous (outside of Mississippi) as Lady Bird, but you were the ultimate steel magnolia, and I know you girls will have lots to discuss. You were both class acts, and I'm sure if there is any litter in heaven, you'll make St. Peter pick it up. After all, you're not his mama.

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