Meridian Star

Local News

July 12, 2007

Pat Fordice dies at 72

Ex-wife of former Gov. Kirk Fordice, dies at home

JACKSON (AP) — Former Mississippi first lady Pat Fordice championed arts, literacy and beautification projects, but close friends remember her as a woman with an adventurous spirit who embraced life and loved her family.

Pat Fordice died Thursday at her Madison home, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She was 72. She had announced in December that she had cancer, but declined to identify the kind of cancer or to discuss her treatment.

Visitation will be 9 a.m. Monday at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church, followed by funeral services at 11 a.m. at the church.

Fordice was described Thursday as someone who displayed dignity and grace, even through difficult periods in her own life.

‘‘She was strong and resilient,’’ said Joanna Heidel, a friend of Fordice for more than 20 years. ‘‘In these last months, she was always optimistic. She did not want anybody to worry about her.’’

Fordice became a public figure after her then-husband Kirk Fordice, a brash, millionaire construction company owner, was elected in 1991 as Mississippi’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

She was instrumental in bringing two popular international art exhibitions to Jackson. In 1996, ‘‘Palaces of St. Petersburg: Russian Imperial Style’’ featured tapestries, china, paintings and other glittering objects. Two years later, the ‘‘Splendors of Versailles,’’ featured French treasures.

‘‘She was key to bringing all those things as a spokesperson. She did it so well,’’ said Marty Wiseman, a political scientist and director of Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government. ‘‘Every time that she made an appearance, she made the state proud. She was the absolute model of class as far as playing the role of first lady and former first lady.’’

Born Patricia Owens in 1934, she attended Christian College in Columbia, Mo., and Memphis State University in Tennessee. She and Kirk Fordice had known each other since they attended high school in Memphis, Heidel said.

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