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Betty Ford

by John T. Marck

First Lady: 1974 to 1977

Wife of President Gerald Ford

Born: April 8, 1918

Died: July 8, 2011 (age 93)

Elizabeth Anne (Betty) Bloomer was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of William Stephenson and Hortense Neahr Bloomer. Her father was a traveling salesman selling industrial supplies, and they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan when Betty was very young. Betty had always had a dream of becoming a dancer. She took lessons at local studios and spent two years at Bennington College studying with Martha Graham as well as other modern dancers. Although her mother did not approve of her becoming a professional performer, she went to New York and performed in dance concerts with the Martha Graham troupe. She also earned money as a fashion model. After spending three years in New York, she returned to Grand Rapids and married William C. Warren, however this marriage ended in divorce five years later. On October 15, 1948, she married a second time to Gerald R. Ford, a lawyer. Gerald decided to run for Congress, and was elected, so they went to Washington, building a home in Alexandria, Virginia. Betty's career was now replaced with children, church and various civil interests. The Ford's had four children; three sons and a daughter.

In 1973, Ford was nominated by President Nixon to serve as Vice President, following the resignation of Spiro Agnew. Betty was quite enthusiastic over this appointment. Betty served as Madam Vice President for eight months, followed by First Lady for approximately two and a half year. She served well as First Lady, being one of the most popular. Her only real problems were her poor health. She first suffered a pinched nerve in her neck, resulting in being forced to retire to bed. Then in September 1974, she was obliged to have a radical mastectomy for breast cancer. Betty survived this crisis successfully.

It appeared that the longer the American people knew Betty the more they liked her. She was admired for her courage and candor with the press. She even gave a full disclosure concerning her breast cancer in the hope that it would help others. She provided a very wholesome White House.

Upon the Presidency ending, Betty and Gerald retired in luxury to their home in Palm Springs, California. They both are working on their memoirs in retirement.

Betty Ford died, at age 93, of natural causes on July 8, 2011, at her home in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage.

Funeral services were held in Palm Desert, California, on July 12, 2011, with over 800 people in attendance, including former President George W. Bush, First Lady Michelle Obama and former first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan and Hillary Rodham ClintonRosalynn Carter, Cokie Roberts and Geoffrey Roberts, a member of the Board of the Betty Ford Center delivered the eulogies.

On July 13, her casket was flown to Grand Rapids where it lay in repose at the Gerald Ford Museum overnight. On July 14, a second service was held at Grace Episcopal Church with eulogies given by Lynn Cheney, former Ford Museum director Richard Norton Smith and son, Steven. In attendance were former President Bill Clinton, former vice-president Dick Cheney and former First Lady Barbara Bush. In her remarks, Mrs. Cheney noted that July 14 would have been Gerald Ford's 98th birthday. After the service, she was buried next to her husband on the museum grounds.

Copyright 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. From The First Ladies of the United States by John T. Marck.