Betty Ford will be laid to rest in her home state of Michigan on what would have been President Ford's 98th birthday. They were married for 58 years. From all accounts it was a very special, solid union.
Her funeral was attended by 800 and included former President George W. Bush as well as First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Ladies Roslyn Carter, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Reagan.
As requested by Mrs. Ford, eulogies were delivered by Roslyn Carter,and journalist/author Cokie Roberts.
Delivering the first eulogy, former first lady Rosalynn Carter said she had "an excellent role model and a hard act to follow."
"Millions are forever in her debt today because she was never afraid to tell the truth," Carter said. "Betty was my friend."
"Mrs. Ford wanted me to remind everyone of the way things used to be in Washington," said Roberts, who as a child was one of the era's "congressional brats."
"I wouldn't be at all surprised if she timed her death to make sure she could convey the message of comity during this week when it seems so badly needed," she writes in her eulogy, which she was polishing up a few hours before the funeral.
Her guest list was pure Betty Ford. She worked with everyone during her life and that is why she was such a successful human being.
Nancy Reagan and Michelle Obama stared quietly ahead before the funeral of Betty Ford in Palm Desert, California. But sandwiched between them in the front row at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church and visible on a television video feed were Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President George W. Bush.
And those two, the former Democratic First Lady and the former Republican President, were in deep conversation about something. Clinton could be seen to be nodding in agreement as Bush explained something, using hand gestures. Later, Clinton was shaking her head in what appeared to be shared frustration as Bush leaned in.
Betty Ford represents the best of what used to be the Republican party. There was a time when Republican women, in particular, led the way in issues like community activism and helping those in need. There is no finer example than Betty Ford.
Betty Ford broke through the public stigma of discussing breast cancer and drug and alcohol addictions. She used her own personal experiences with both to help others.
Betty Ford had not been a typical first lady, candidly going public about her breast cancer and mastectomy in an effort to build public awareness. She often charted a public course that spoke to some of America's most controversial issues, supporting ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, liberalized abortion laws, and more women in policymaking government jobs. Privately, she had advised her husband in 1974 not to grant an unconditional pardon for Watergate disgraced President Richard Nixon, an opinion on which she later changed her mind.
Over the decades, the former first lady joined in leading numerous nonpartisan efforts, especially on issues of health-care reform, children's well being, AID's awareness and treatment, and mental health.
For the Chicago-born, Grand Rapids, Mich.-raised, middle-class mother of four who initially wanted nothing to do with the limelight — of politics, certainly — Betty Ford's was a rich and meaningful life that made a difference for America.
Well done, Betty Ford. Rest in peace.