Betty Ford remembered at California memorial service

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 12, 2011 2:48 PM
Betty Ford remembered at California memorial service

By Mary Slosson

PALM DESERT, Calif (Reuters) - Services for former first lady Betty Ford began in Palm Desert, California, on Tuesday with a private visitation by family members and close friends.

Ford, wife of late President Gerald Ford who helped found a rehabilitation clinic that bears her name, died on Friday at the age of 93.

The visitation, closed to the public, will be followed by a private memorial service at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church attended by first lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush.

Also expected were U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former first lady Nancy Reagan and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter and National Public Radio journalist Cokie Roberts will deliver eulogies, according to the Elizabeth B. Ford National Tribute Committee.

Following the private memorial, the public will have an opportunity to view Betty Ford's body in repose at the church from 5 p.m. local time until midnight.

Ford's remains will depart on Wednesday for Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it will again lie in repose.

A final private ceremony will occur at the Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids at 2 p.m. local time on Thursday.

Ford's body will be interred next to her husband's at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

Ford, once dubbed the "fighting first lady" by Time magazine for her outspoken political views, was a vocal supporter of women's rights while her husband was president from 1974 to 1977.

She also led early efforts to raise awareness of the battle against breast cancer after undergoing a mastectomy in 1974, less than two months after her husband succeeded the disgraced Richard Nixon as president.

Former president Bill Clinton, who had been expected to be at the Palm Desert service, canceled due to a scheduling conflict and will instead attend the service in Grand Rapids.

(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton)