Betty Ford passed away late Friday surrounded by her children. She was 93. She will be remembered for her forthright manner and a mutual affection she and the American public enjoyed throughout her colorful life. President Obama remembered her as “a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights” who “helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment.”
The dancer from Grand Rapids, Mich., became First Lady when Richard Nixon resigned as President in August of 1974 and her husband Gerald, former House Minority Leader who had stepped in to replace Spiro Agnew as the Vice President just a year earlier, was jolted into the Presidency in a storm of Watergate scandal. Born in 1918 to middle class parents, Ford moved to Greenwich Village in the late 1930’s to pursue dance instead of going to college. After returning to Michigan in her mid-twenties she eventually met and married Gerald Ford, who won his first Congressional race shortly thereafter.
Within days, 10,000 letters, more than 500 telephone calls, more than 200 telegrams and scores of floral arrangements poured into the White House and into her suite at Bethesda Naval Hospital. In the months that followed, tens of thousands of American women, inspired by Mrs. Ford’s forthrightness and courage in facing her illness, crowded into doctors’ offices and clinics for breast-cancer examinations.
She will be buried with her husband Geralad, who passed away in 2006 also at age 93, on the grounds of his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.