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Current, former first ladies due at Ford funeral
PALM DESERT, California (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama and three former first ladies were among dignitaries heading to California to pay tribute to former first lady Betty Ford at a funeral focusing on her twin passions: politics and her world-famous Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and alcohol treatment.
Mrs. Ford, who died at age 93 on Friday, had mapped out plans for Tuesday’s ceremony at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, including who would deliver her eulogies.
A spokesman for former President George W. Bush said he will be attending the California service and will convey condolences on behalf of his wife, Laura, who can’t attend. Former President Bill Clinton canceled plans to attend because of mechanical problems with a plane he was to fly on.
Other dignitaries who confirmed they would attend were President Richard Nixon’s daughters, Tricia Nixon-Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower; President Lyndon Johnson’s daughters, Lucie Baines Johnson and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; and Mrs. Robb’s husband, former Sen. Charles Robb.
A second funeral will be held Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich., where former President Gerald Ford is buried at his presidential museum. Former first lady Barbara Bush is expected to attend that event.
Before the scheduled late-morning arrival of the casket at St. Margaret’s, Palm Desert residents took advantage of the pre-dawn cool to walk dogs, jog and reflect on Mrs. Ford’s life.
“I don’t know where a lot of people would be if it weren’t for her,” said Randy Gaynor, 47, a recovering alcoholic. “There’s been a lot of first ladies, and they did a lot of things, but this will be long remembered after she’s gone.”
Media satellite trucks lined a street near the church, and TV cameras crowded big-rig flatbed trucks across the street.
A program prepared for the service featured a picture of Mrs. Ford, the Emily Dickinson poem “If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking” and the words “The family thanks you for your support,” followed by the signatures Mike, Jack, Steve and Susan, the Fords’ four children.
Jack and Michael Ford were to read passages from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Mrs. Roberts, a commentator on National Public Radio and member of the noted Boggs political family, said Mrs. Ford asked her to talk about a time in Washington when Democrats and Republicans could be friends and partisan politics did not paralyze government.
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