Hundreds pay respects for former Miss. first lady at her funeral

Published 4:36 pm Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Two children and a grandchild evoked laughter and tears from 800 mourners Monday during the funeral for former Mississippi first lady Pat Fordice.

Her closed casket was covered in white roses, and a portrait of her smiling in a pink dress was placed nearby.

“She was not afraid to die. She was just sad to leave us,” Fordice’s daughter, Angie Roselle, of Vicksburg, said during Fordice’s funeral at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church in downtown Jackson. “She knew where she was going, and she knew she would be embraced when she got there.”

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Pat Fordice died this past Thursday at her home in Madison after having undergone months of treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer. She was 72.

Her then-husband, Kirk Fordice, was a blunt-spoken Vicksburg contractor who unseated Democrat Ray Mabus in November 1991 to become Mississippi’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction. As first lady from January 1992 to January 2000, Pat Fordice embraced programs promoting the arts, literacy and highway beautification.

The Fordices divorced in 2000, shortly after leaving the Governor’s Mansion. Kirk Fordice died in 2004.

Pat Fordice’s son, Jim Fordice, alternately chuckled and choked back tears while delivering a eulogy for his mother on Monday. His recollection of personal, family stories also invoked laughter and sobs from those in the sanctuary.

He told of “tender mommy” moments like the times when his mother dressed scraped knees with a bright orange astringent and spent an entire day decorating his college dorm room.

“Now, my mom was an incredible woman, but she was no super hero. She couldn’t leap tall buildings, couldn’t stop bullets. She wasn’t the most talented haggler,” Jim Fordice said. “A favorite family story involves a trip to Tijuana, Mexico, where haggling is de rigueur. Mom was trying to buy T-shirts for the kids, but she unfortunately haggled up. The Mexican street vendor gave a price of $6, and … she said, ‘I wont pay a dime under $8.’”

Fordice’s granddaughter, Anna Roselle, described her as a woman who never stopped learning.

“I remember when I taught Gran how to use a computer,” she said. “I stuck Post-It notes all over the computer and all over the desk. It must have been such a mess, but she loved it. She was so willing to listen to me and learn from me. I think her being so open is really a lot of what qualified her to be such a role model.”