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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Speakers remember Betty Ford's love for family, those struggling

Former first lady Betty Ford was remembered Tuesday as a woman whose disclosures about her personal struggles showed courage and grace and brought encouragement to others.

"She was a tireless advocate for those struggling," said former first lady Rosalynn Carter. "She was never afraid to speak the truth."
Ford, who died Friday at age 93, raised awareness of issues involving women's rights, cancer, alcoholism and substance abuse during and after her stint as first lady.
A former president and the current and former first ladies Tuesday afternoon joined family members at the first of two services for Ford.
Amid tight security, mourners filled St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, nestled among the arid mountains in Palm Desert, California. Former President George W. Bush escorted former first lady Nancy Reagan to a pew.
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They were joined by current first lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Hillary Clinton.
A military honor guard escorted the former first lady's casket, covered by a white shroud bearing a large blue cross.
Journalist Cokie Roberts will join Carter in paying tribute to Ford, whose husband, former President Gerald R. Ford, died in 2006.
Betty Ford wanted her to stress the camaraderie once common in Congress, Roberts told CNN shortly before the service. "She wanted me to talk about how things used to be in Washington before we had the kind of partisanship we have today."
Roberts' father, the late Rep. Hale Boggs, D-Louisiana, served with Gerald Ford, a Republican, in the House.
Former first lady Laura Bush had previous travel commitments, according to a spokesman. Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, will attend a private Ford service Thursday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the spokesman said.
After Tuesday's service, Ford's remains will lie in repose at the church until midnight, and then be flown Wednesday to the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, according to a website on the memorial plans. Ford's remains will lie in repose there beginning at 7 p.m., said a statement posted on the website.
The alcohol and substance abuse treatment center in Rancho Mirage, California, that bears her name has become one of the best-known facilities of its kind in the country.
In remarks to reporters Monday, Clinton said she is "grateful for having known" Ford.
"Her commitment to speaking out on issues that, before she took them on, were just not discussed made a huge difference in the lives of Americans," Clinton said.
"I remember well when my mother's best friend was dying of breast cancer; nobody talked about it in those days," she continued. "But Betty Ford made it acceptable" to discuss the issue in public.
While Clinton, the current secretary of state, was in Palm Desert, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was not at the service because of problems with the aircraft he was to take, said Ford spokeswoman Barbara Lewandrowski. He will attend Thursday's service at Grace Episcopal Church.

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