Former first lady Betty Ford dies at the age of 93

July 9, 2011
By the CNN Wire Staff

CNN) — Betty Ford, the widow of late President Gerald Ford and a co-founder of an eponymous addiction center in California, has died at the age of 93, according to the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

Ford died Friday evening with family at her bedside, according to a family member.

Elaine Didier, the director of the Grand Rapids, Michigan, museum, confirmed Ford’s death to CNN.

No other details were immediately available. The family is expected to release a statement later Friday or Saturday, Didier said.

Condolences began pouring in soon after news broke about her death.

President Barack Obama remembered the former first lady as a “powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights” and someone who “helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction.” His predecessor, George W. Bush, added that “because of her leadership, many lives were saved.”

Some of the many others offering praise and sympathy included Nancy Reagan (calling Ford “an inspiration), and former presidents George H. W. Bush (describing her as a “wonderful wife and mother, a great friend and a courageous first lady) and Jimmy Carter (saying she was “a close personal friend” and “a remarkable political spouse.”)

Born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in Chicago, she grew up in Grand Rapids. At the age of 21, five after her father had passed away, she moved to New York City to work as a dancer and model before. She returned to the Midwest two years later.

One year after divorcing William Warren after five years of marriage, she wed Gerald Ford — a former star football player at the University of Michigan, decorated U.S. Navy veteran and budding Republican politician — in 1948. That year, the woman now known as Betty Ford campaigned with her new husband on his successful campaign to become a U.S. congressman from Michigan. She gave birth to three sons and a daughter over the course of their 58-year marriage.

The family moved to Washington, where Gerald Ford served in the Capitol for 25 years prior to his being tapped in 1973 as then-President Richard Nixon’s vice president in place of Spiro T. Agnew.

Just over 10 months later, Betty Ford became first lady when her husband was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States. Gerald Ford took office after Nixon resigned in the wake of his impeachment following the crisis and cover-up of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington.

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