COLUMBIA, S.C. — The wife of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford moved out of the official governor's residence with their four sons Friday, a little more than a month after he admitted to a yearlong affair with an Argentine woman he called his "soul mate."
First lady Jenny Sanford and several other women moved bags of clothes, a suitcase and armloads of suits and dresses on hangers from the governor's mansion in Columbia before departing in a caravan of sport utility vehicles. Three of the four boys were present, carrying tote and duffel bags.
Before departing, she hugged several of the women who helped her carry belongings out. In a statement, Jenny Sanford said she was heading to the family residence on Sullivans Island, some 120 miles southeast, for the upcoming school year.
"From there, we will work to continue the process of healing our family," she said. "While we will be leaving Columbia, we will return often, and I will remain engaged in activities in my role as First Lady, acknowledging that my responsibilities to my family come first."
The governor, who spoke to reporters elsewhere in the state later Friday, termed the reconciliation "a day at a time process" and said the move was a mutual decision.
"It's been brewing for a while and something we've been back and forth on and kicked around at length. It was not entered into lightly but with a whole lot of thought and prayer," he said.
Jenny Sanford is a former Wall Street vice president who helped launch her husband's political career only to endure his tearful public confession in June. She had separated from her husband and sought refuge with her sons at the couple's coastal home two weeks before news of the affair broke.
The coastal home is a low, two-story house set back 50 yards from the beach, featuring a large great room with windows overlooking the water. It was briefly on the market earlier this year with an asking price of $3.5 million.
The boys had attended Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, a private school in Columbia. The governor said the boys will attend Porter Gaud School, a private school in Charleston.
The departure from the mansion, which once served as officer quarters for a Civil War arsenal, came two days after the Sanfords returned from a two-week vacation in Europe. The building has six public rooms downstairs and a huge kitchen; the family lived upstairs.
Jenny Sanford has called her husband's behavior "inexcusable" but said she was willing to give him another chance, although she said reconciliation would not be easy.
Sanford, 49, disappeared for nearly a week in late June to see his Argentine lover, Maria Belen Chapur, leaving his staff, his wife and the rest of the state in the dark about his whereabouts. Initially, his office told reporters Sanford was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
Jenny Sanford told the AP she learned about the affair in January when she came across a copy of a letter her husband wrote his mistress. In later months, her husband asked several times to visit the other woman, requests she denied, the first lady said.
"It's one thing to forgive adultery; it's another thing to condone it," she told AP during an exclusive interview soon after the governor revealed the affair.
The couple underwent weeks of meetings to save their marriage. But as that wrapped up, the governor knew his marriage was hanging by a thread and public humiliation was coming.
Days later, after the governor told AP he was relying on religious faith to help salvage his marriage even though the love of his life was in Argentina, Jenny Sanford said it was up to the people of South Carolina whether they want to give their governor a second chance.
"His far more egregious offenses were committed against God, the institutions of marriage and family, our boys and me," she said at the time.
The Sanfords met in New York in the 1980s when Sanford also was working in finance, at Goldman Sachs. The couple married in 1989 and relocated to South Carolina, where Sanford worked in real estate before serving three terms in Congress.
Until revelations of the affair with the woman Sanford met on a trip to Uruguay in 2001, the governor had been considered a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate.