Betty Ford, former first lady and founder of the acclaimed Betty Ford Center died last Friday at the ripe old age of 93 while in the care of staff at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. She passed away as a result of natural causes.
Born in 1918 on the spring Chicago morning of April 8th as Elizabeth Anne Bloomer, the later Mrs. Ford spent her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was the youngest of three children.
In her early days she expressed a love for dancing and at the age of 16 she moved to Manhattan, landing her first job as a fashion model. She danced in her spare time and after becoming homesick she returned to Michigan in 1941 to be closer to her beloved family. It was there that she got her first taste of selflessly helping others when she opened a dance performance group which taught handicapped children rhythm through styles such as the Foxtrot and Tango.
In 1948 she married Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States of America, her second marriage which followed two years after her divorce.
It was during her marriage as the president’s wife that she campaigned for women’s rights and amongst her many achievements she pushed through the legalization of abortion and was a huge advocate of equal rights.
The pair lived in Washington DC for 30 years and in 1974, the same year that Ford was sworn into office following the controversial resignation of Richard Nixon due to the Watergate scandal, Betty Ford was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, an illness she fought hard to bring to the public’s attention. She keenly impressed upon women the need to undergo screening and subsequent treatment options.
After Gerald’s tenure as president ended they moved to Rancho Mirage. Due to a painful episode with a pinched nerve Betty then found herself with an alcohol and prescription medicine addiction which took the intervention of her family to overcome. In 1978 she admitted herself into the Long Beach Naval Hospital for treatment, an experience which led to her open the Betty Ford Center in 1982.
The recovery center was a great success and has helped over 9,000 men and women, including hundreds of celebrities, to overcome various forms of addiction.
Her husband Gerald passed away in 2006 but the family legacy is still as strong as ever today with the Betty Ford Center a shining beacon of hope to people with excessive behavioural problems.
Betty Ford penned her experiences in several novels including The Times of My Life (1978), and her journey from chemical dependency to clean living again in the 1987 book Betty: A Glad Awakening.
Her tireless work brought her many awards and along with a 1987 induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame she was awarded the Presidential Medal of freedom four years later by President George H. W. Bush followed by the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.
Betty Ford’s center will continue to help addicts to rehabilitate; a legacy which has rightly immortalised a caring and benevolent woman.
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