Missouri says goodbye to its former First Lady, and the state’s first female U.S. Senator.

Jean Carnahan has died at the age of 90 after a brief illness. She is the widow of Governor Mel Carnahan and was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat that he had posthumously won in 2000 becoming the first woman to represent Missouri in the Senate.

During a 2016 interview for the Carnahan Policy Institute, she recalls being aware of Missourians asking her to serve, even as the family was attending funerals for her late husband, their eldest son Randy, and an aide Chris Sifford.

“I had to decide,” she said. “I think I said to myself ‘what would Mel want me to do’ ‘what would he expect me to do under these circumstances,’ and so I think I tried to act like him.”

Carnahan would soon find allies and her own voice in Congress as she served on the Armed Forces and Commerce Committees. See more photos.

She also said she loved being Missouri’s First Lady.

“I enjoyed it,” she said. “It was the happiest eight years of my life. I’m one of these people who has lots of ideas. I get up early in the morning with, you know, a dozen ideas. Most people just sort of (sigh), they are exhausted with the things that I’ve created to do. But at the mansion, I developed a staff and I tried to run it like a business.”

A private family service will be held at Carson Hill Cemetery near Ellsinore, where she will be laid to rest next to her husband and son. A public celebration of her life is being planned in St. Louis, with details to be announced later.

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