It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Former First Lady Betty Ford. On Friday, July 8, 2011 Former First Lady Betty Ford passed away at the age of 93. She died peacefully at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
Betty Ford was born on April 8, 1918 in Chicago and was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At a young age Betty Ford was interested in dance. She took this passion with her to the Bennington School of Dance, in Vermont, for two summers. While studying there she met and began her long association with choreographer Martha Graham. She continued her studies with Ms. Graham in New York City, becoming a member of her Auxiliary Performance Troupe and performing at Carnegie Hall.
In 1947, a friend introduced her to Gerald R. Ford, Jr., a young lawyer who had served as Navy lieutenant during World War II. By February 1948 the couple was engaged to be married. Their wedding took place on October 15, 1948, two weeks before Mr. Ford was elected to his first term in Congress. They moved to Washington D.C. where he served as member of the House of Representatives for 25 years.
The Fords became the parents of four children: Michael Gerald, born March 14, 1950; John Gardner, born March 16, 1952; Steven Meigs, born May 19, 1956; and Susan Elizabeth, born July 6, 1957.
After the 1972 Watergate scandal, the Nixon administration gradually became consumed by legal investigations. Then, when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned amidst a scandal of his own, President Nixon nominated Congressman Ford to replace Agnew. After President Nixon himself resigned on August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford took the oath of office as 38th President of the United States.
As First Lady, Betty Ford addressed public issues that were important to her. She was open about her diagnosis of breast cancer in 1974 and educated women all over the world about the importance of regular screenings. She was outspoken about women's rights, pushed for more programs for handicapped children and brought public attention to the importance of the performing arts.
In 1978, her prescription drug and alcohol use led to a family intervention and her self-admittance to Long Beach Naval Hospital for treatment. In facing her personal problems, Betty Ford again dealt openly and honestly with the public. She became an active and outspoken champion of improved awareness, education, and treatment for alcohol and other drug dependencies.
In 1982, Ambassador Leonard Firestone joined Mrs. Ford in co-founding the non-profit Betty Ford Center at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. Today, The Betty Ford Center is regarded as one of the most outstanding treatment facilities in the world.