Saturday, July 9, 2011

Betty Ford — 1918-2011

A class act in every way.

Betty Ford, the wife of the late President Gerald Ford, died Friday. She was 93.

She was taken to Eisenhower Medical Center near her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where she passed away, Lee Rice, a spokesman for the hospital, told NBC News.

Nancy Reagan was among the first to mourn her passing.

“I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford’s death,” the wife of the late President Ronald Reagan said in a statement. “She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center. She was Jerry Ford’s strength through some very difficult days in our country’s history, and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us.”

Betty Ford remained one of the country’s most admired women even after the Fords left the White House in 1977. When she was hospitalized in 1978, she said she had become addicted to drugs and alcohol she took for painful arthritis and a pinched nerve in her neck.

Four years later she founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, a substance abuse facility.

Former President Ford, who died in 2006, was appointed vice president by then President Richard Nixon in 1973 days after Spiro Agnew resigned over a scandal.

The following year, Ford ascended to the presidency after Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal, but he was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976 when he sought a full-term in the office.

Much of President Ford’s partial term was dedicated to calming a tense nation in a turbulent time that included the end of the Vietnam war and various economic challenges.

After the Watergate ordeal, Americans liked their new president — and first lady Betty, whose candor charmed the country.

I hold her and her family in the Light.