Betty Ford said things that first ladies just don't say, even today. And 1970s America loved her for it.
According to Mrs. Ford, her young adult children probably had smoked marijuana — and if she were their age, she'd try it, too. She told "60 Minutes" she wouldn't be surprised to learn that her youngest, 18-year-old Susan, was in a sexual relationship (an embarrassed Susan issued a denial).
The funeral itself is private, but around 200 people are lining the route close to the Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids.
Donna Smith and her husband, John, live just a couple blocks away from the church and got a great spot to view the precession pass by.
"She went through a lot personally and because of her strength in fighting breast cancer, alcoholism; just being a wonderful wife and mother and supporting her family," Donna Smith says. "I have a lot of respect for that."
Former First Lady Betty Ford died at the age of 93.
President Obama released this statement:
Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion. As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.
Today, we take comfort in the knowledge that Betty and her husband, former President Gerald Ford, are together once more. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to their children, Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder released this statement:
Betty Ford was an outstanding Michigander and a shining example of how one person can truly make a difference. Her groundbreaking work in breast cancer awareness and treatment as well as her pioneering efforts to help those struggling with addiction changed the lives of millions of people for the better. She was a role model for us all as she lived her life with grace and dignity. While Michigan mourns the loss of this extraordinary woman, we are thankful for her years of dedication to our state and its people.
Sue and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Ford family, in particular children Michael, John, Steven and Susan.
And this statement came from Kent GOP Chairman Sam Moore:
With our deepest sympathy we extend our thoughts and prayers to the entire Ford family following the death of First Lady Betty Ford. Mrs. Ford was a pillar in our community who exemplified the strength, character and class that has defined our nation. The country has lost an American icon. We will always treasure our hometown first family, and the President and Mrs. Ford will continue to live on in our heart.
They’re bringing Betty Ford back home this week, to be buried next to her husband, President Gerald Ford, at his presidential museum in Grand Rapids.
You knew by now that the former first lady died last Friday in California. But what you may not have known unless you are in your fifties, or older, is just how important she was.
They both were, really. President Ford’s story is better known, and best expressed by Jimmy Carter, who said when he took office: “I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”
Elizabeth Bloomer Ford had a big role in that too, but she also did something else. She showed the nation that a first lady could also be a human being.
The Fords took office after the final convulsion of the Watergate scandal, and eleven of the worst years the United States has ever known. The public had learned that Richard Nixon had lied about virtually everything.
His predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, had dragged us into a war in Vietnam for reasons nobody understood, a war that went on for years and tore our nation apart. Before that, we’d been traumatized when the young president before him had his head blown off in broad daylight. The presidency and America had taken a beating.
Nor were any of the first ladies of the period women to whom most people could relate. We’d always been fascinated by the presidents’ wives. But they were sort of like royalty, fascinating, forbidden and distant. Betty Ford was a regular person. Just months before she moved in to the White House, she was the unknown wife of the house minority leader, looking forward to her husband’s retirement from Congress. Then, suddenly, she was first lady.
But she was still Betty Ford, the irrepressible mother of four kids, a woman who most of all, was real.