- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

Gerald R. Ford’s state funeral is missing some of grandeur of the one for Ronald Reagan two years ago, a reflection of the 38th president’s modest ways and lesser imprint on the nation, according to further planning details released yesterday.

Part of it will be missing President Bush, too. The president will not attend Mr. Ford’s state funeral in the Rotunda tomorrow night but will return to Washington from his Texas ranch on Monday. Mr. Bush will pay respects to Mr. Ford while his remains lie in state at the Capitol and speak Tuesday at services for Mr. Ford at the National Cathedral.

Mr. Bush yesterday declared Tuesday as a national day of mourning for Mr. Ford.

“I call on the American people to assemble on that day in their respective places of worship, there to pay homage to the memory of President Ford,” he said in a proclamation he issued from Crawford, Texas. “I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in this solemn observance.”

In a separate executive order, Mr. Bush ordered the closure Tuesday of federal departments and other governmental agencies not connected with the national security or defense of the nation or essential to public business — as a mark of respect for Mr. Ford.

Also yesterday, the Nasdaq Stock Market said it would observe the national day of mourning by closing for Tuesday’s Washington funeral. The New York Stock Exchange is expected to do the same.

If some of the funeral formalities are toned down, Mr. Ford’s goodbye is packed with events tied to the touchstones of his life.

A prayer service and public viewing today in Palm Desert, Calif., near Mr. Ford’s retirement haven for 30 years, begins a five-day chain of ceremonies that includes two funeral services in Washington; yet another, in Grand Rapids, Mich., adopted hometown of the Nebraska native, and additional commemorations in the Capitol.

Readying itself in a hurry, the nation’s capital prepared to receive Mr. Ford’s remains and honor the memory of the congressional veteran who achieved the highest office after being appointed vice president in 1973 by President Nixon, who resigned in 1974.

The convergence of foreign and U.S. dignitaries, the large public presence, and the national symbolism all marked the ceremonies as a potential target for terrorism, prompting the government to designate the funeral a special security event. That expedites a range of extraordinary measures overseen by the Secret Service.

Even so, some of the most regal touches of a state funeral — those most burned in the consciousness of Americans old enough to remember the clicking hooves and the faces of grief of John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession — are being bypassed, by request of his family and, most likely, according to Mr. Ford’s own wishes.

Although the family has kept the former president’s final days private, his pastor at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Robert Certain, shared some details yesterday. All four of Mr. Ford’s children made a pilgrimage to their parents’ California home to say goodbye, the pastor said.

Betty Ford, the former president’s wife of 58 years, and the couple’s three sons — Michael, John and Steven — were at his bedside when he died Tuesday at 93, Mr. Certain said. The couple’s daughter, Susan, had returned to Albuquerque, N.M., the day before Christmas to spend the holiday with her family.

“I think he deliberately held on until Christmas was over,” said Mr. Certain, who said he last saw Mr. Ford Dec. 16 when he went to the family’s home for a Communion service. “He didn’t want to spoil anyone’s holiday.”

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