Ken Hare In Depth: Former Montgomery first lady a force in her o - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Ken Hare In Depth: Former Montgomery first lady a force in her own right

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

For two decades it was as sure as spring follows winter; when the newspaper printed something that could be construed as critical of then-mayor Emory Folmar, Montgomery's first lady Anita Folmar would be on the telephone to set me straight.

It didn't matter that much of the time the offending article was on the news pages. As I explained to her innumerable times, as editorial page editor I dealt with opinion and did not supervise the news department. But she knew me, and she called and vented anyway.

That's because she was fiercely loyal to her husband, who was mayor for 22 years. I was either managing editor or editorial page editor of the newspaper for almost all of those years.

If that was the only reason she called, I wouldn't be writing this column. Women who are fiercely loyal to their political husbands are not exactly a rare commodity.

But she called many times when her husband was not the reason, and those calls almost always focused on making the community better for either children or the arts or both. (Interestingly, she seldom called about politics, even though she was deeply involved in state and local politics as well.)

I knew Anita Folmar in her informal role as the city's first lady, of course. But I later got to know her better by working alongside her on civic boards and committees, especially United Way. She wasn't just a figurehead member of those committees; she worked at them.

She wasn't afraid to speak her mind. I found her level-headed and to the point. While I often differed with her on political issues, I found myself more often than not agreeing with her viewpoint on the need to improve services for children and to expand and support the arts.

Mayor Todd Strange was on target when he said, "Her work with the United Way and love for the cultural aspects of our city, devoting herself to the zoo, museum of fine arts, the ballet, the Armory Learning Arts Center and countless other outlets, are among the many ways she served our citizens. Although she did not hold elected office, her dedication to Montgomery helped move our community forward."

It's not unusual for political wives to adopt a cause or two, and many of them make a difference. But Anita Folmar went far beyond the usual; she was a real force for good in this community in many areas and over a long span of years.

She will be missed.

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Ken Hare was a longtime Alabama newspaper editorial writer and editorial page editor who now writes a regular column for WSFA's web site. Email him at khare@wsfa.com.

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