Many Kershaw Countians who are past middle age undoubtedly recall with fondness former First Lady Betty Ford, who died last week at age 93. Her husband, Gerald Ford, became president upon Richard Nixon’s resignation following the Watergate scandal; he had earlier been appointed to the vice presidency after Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace.
Ford was a healer; he pardoned Nixon in a move that led to his being narrowly defeated by Jimmy Carter, and he always maintained that was the right move to make to bring the country together again after the turmoil that Nixon and his lieutenants had caused. But the biggest surprise of Ford’s presidency was the emergence of his wife, Betty, as a courageous woman who forged her own path.
Support and affection for Mrs. Ford came from both Republicans and Democrats. She spoke openly of her battle with breast cancer while she was First Lady -- she had a radical mastectomy and conquered her disease -- and wasn’t afraid to speak out on issues of controversy. After her family and friends confronted her about her alcoholism, she sought treatment, became sober and later founded the Betty Ford Center, which has treated thousands of people for addictions.
Mrs. Ford faced her battles bravely and lived her life with dignity, grace and outspokenness. She transcended party lines and became widely admired. She set a great example, and she will be missed.