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Patricia Owens Fordice

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Patricia Owens Fordice, the former First Lady of Mississippi, died at her home in Madison, Mississippi on Thursday morning, July 12, 2007. Mrs. Fordice will lie in state from 1 to 5 p.m. today at the Governor's Mansion. Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Monday from Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church with visitation beginning at 9 a.m. in the church parlor. Burial will be in Parkway Memorial Cemetery in Ridgeland.
Mrs. Fordice's legacy is much larger than one of politics. Her adventures include dining with kings, swimming with dolphins, being knighted by royalty and sky diving with the Golden Knights.
She was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 27, 1934 to the late Lloyd and Veo Owens. She attended school in Jackson until the age of 14 when her family moved to Memphis, Tennessee where she met and later married her high school sweetheart, Kirk Fordice. She later attended college at Christian Brothers in Columbia, Missouri where she studied psychology and was a member of Phi Mu sorority.
The Governor and Mrs. Fordice married in Memphis, Tennessee after which they moved to Lafayette, Indiana where he attended and graduated from Purdue. After several tours of duty with the U.S. Army, they settled in Vicksburg, Mississippi with their three young children and later welcomed their forth child.
While the Governor dedicated himself to taking over the reigns of his father's construction company, Mrs. Fordice wholeheartedly committed herself to building a loving and caring home for her children. Her leadership skills were recognized in the community and her church. She was asked to teach Sunday School, to serve as president of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary, president of Needlework Guild and their social dance club. She was a lifelong member of The Bridge Club, which evolved into the Official First Ladies' Advisory Committee.
Mrs. Fordice campaigned beside her husband and many times without him, but brought along faithful friends as she criss-crossed the state-stopping at small grocery stores or large businesses. She wore a smile and a hand shake or hug that said, "I care about you and Mississippi." The rest is history.
Patricia Owens Fordice served graciously as Mississippi's former First Lady from 1992-2000. As First Lady, one of her favorite engagements was speaking to young people where she would regale students with the great heritage of Mississippi hoping to inspire dreams and impress upon them that they control their own destiny.
While her greatest personal achievement was the rearing of a fine family, Mrs. Fordice's most rewarding accomplishment in public life was her involvement with the Mississippi Commission for International and Cultural Exchange. This Commission was created in direct response to a volunteer effort organized by Mrs. Fordice to send medical supplies to St. Petersburg, Russia. The Commission was responsible for bringing to Jackson, Mississippi four world class exhibitions-- The Palaces of St. Petersburg, The Splendors of Versailles, The Majesty of Spain, and The Glory of Baroque Dresden resulting in a huge economic impact on the State of Mississippi.
Her pace after her tenure as first lady did not slow and Mrs. Fordice's career blossomed. The most challenging responsibility was serving in 2005 as Director of Culture and Human Services for the City of Jackson, Mississippi. In this post, she managed a multi-million dollar budget which included all cultural and art venues within the city as well as the city owned childcare centers and senior citizen facilities. In the fall of 2005, Mrs. Fordice untiringly worked as liaison between the City of Jackson and the American Red Cross during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina helping to organize shelters and registration sites for Hurricane victims.
She hosted a weekly talk radio program for 7 years and co-hosted a weekly television show on Mississippi Public Broadcasting--"Woman to Woman". She also served as spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation and frequently lobbied Congress for the expansion of Medicare coverage and for arthritis research. For five years, she worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield as spokesperson for the "Ageless Heroes" program.
Mrs. Fordice served with many organizations in various capacities: member of the Board of Governors' of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra; former member of the Board of Trustees of Belhaven College, of Mississippi Special Olympics, and the International Ballet Competition; first Chairman of the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service and creator of the ongoing Governor's Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE) Awards; Honorary Board Member of the Mississippi School for the Arts' Foundation; Honorary co-chairman of the Mississippi Chapter of Women in the Arts, and Honorary Chairman Emeritus of the Mississippi Commission for International and Cultural Exchange.
She was past-president and lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary; member of The Garden Clubs of Mississippi, The Nature Conservancy, the Girls Scouts , The United Methodist Women, and the Vicksburg Little Theatre. As a member of Crawford Street United Methodist Church in Vicksburg, she taught Sunday school and served on the Council of Ministries. Most recently, she was a member of Madison United Methodist Church.
Mrs. Fordice was honored by many organizations. In response to her organization of the humanitarian efforts for St. Petersburg, Russia, she was knighted "Dame of Grace" by the Russian Orthodox Order, Knights Hospitallar, St. John of Jerusalem. Pat was included in Marquis' Who's Who in the World in 2000 and in Cambridge Press's 1000 Great Americans in 2001, and Marquis Who's Who of American Women in 2002. She received the Medal of Honor from the American DAR; the Medal of Excellence from Mississippi University for Women; The Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson National Award for Service from Keep America Beautiful; the Presidential Service Award from President George W. Bush; and the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Southern Economic Council. In 1999, she was given a dual commendation by Mississippi's Senate and House of Representatives for her service as first lady. In April of 2007, she was inducted as the first woman to the City of Memphis Schools' Hall of Fame.
Other awards include: the President's Commission on the Status of Women-Outstanding Mississippi Woman of 2005 from Mississippi State University and The Louise Godwin Award from Keep Mississippi Beautiful (KMB). Both Special Olympics and KMB present Pat Fordice Awards to deserving volunteers. She was honored in 2006 by the Madison the City Chamber of Commerce as a Dynamic Woman.
Mrs. Fordice is survived by daughter, Angela Fordice Roselle of Vicksburg; son, Dan and wife Ann Claire Fordice of Vicksburg; son, Hunter and wife Sallie Fordice of Vicksburg; son, Jim and wife Sarina Fordice of Nashville, TN; 12 adoring grandchildren; brother Jimmy Owens and his wife Carol of Chino, CA; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Mrs. Fordice requested that memorials be made to the Mississippi Children's Museum, Post Office Box 55409, Jackson, Mississippi 39296-5409 or to Friends of Children's Hospital, 2500 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39216.
Published in Clarion Ledger on July 15, 2007
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