The Daily Blog

Jul 19

Betty Ford Dies: Former First Lady Dead At Age 93.

LOS ANGELES — Betty Ford, the former first lady whose triumph over drug and alcohol addiction became a beacon of hope for addicts and the inspiration for her Betty Ford Center in California, died at age 93, a family friend said late Friday.

Her death Friday was confirmed to The Associated Press by Marty Allen, chairman emeritus of the Ford Foundation. Family spokeswoman Barbara Lewandrowski said later that the former first lady died at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. Other details of her death were not immediately available.

"She was a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous First Lady," former President George H.W. Bush said in a statement on Friday. "No one confronted life’s struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced."

While her husband served as president, Ford’s comments weren’t the kind of genteel, innocuous talk expected from a first lady, and a Republican one no less. Her unscripted comments sparked tempests in the press and dismayed President Gerald Ford’s advisers, who were trying to soothe the national psyche after Watergate. But to the scandal-scarred, Vietnam-wearied, hippie-rattled nation, Mrs. Ford’s openness was refreshing.

And 1970s America loved her for it.

According to Mrs. Ford, her young adult children probably had smoked marijuana – and if she were their age, she’d try it, too. She told “60 Minutes” she wouldn’t be surprised to learn that her youngest, 18-year-old Susan, was in a sexual relationship (an embarrassed Susan issued a denial).

She mused that living together before marriage might be wise, thought women should be drafted into the military if men were, and spoke up unapologetically for abortion rights, taking a position contrary to the president’s. “Having babies is a blessing, not a duty,” Mrs. Ford said.

"Mother’s love, candor, devotion, and laughter enriched our lives and the lives of the millions she touched throughout this great nation," her family said in a statement released late Friday. "To be in her presence was to know the warmth of a truly great lady."

Candor worked for Betty Ford, again and again. She would build an enduring legacy by opening up the toughest times of her life as public example


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