Betty Ford, former first lady and founder of the acclaimed Betty Ford Center died at the incredible age of 93 while under the care of medical staff at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho, Mirage. She passed away peacefully as a result of natural causes after a life of trials and tribulations which led to many great achievements.
She was born as Elizabeth Anne Bloomer on the crisp, 1918 spring Chicago morning of April 8th,and the later Mrs. Ford spent her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the youngest of three children.
In her early days she loved nothing more than dancing and at the age of 16 she moved to Manhattan where she landed her first job as a fashion model. While there she danced in her spare time but after becoming homesick she returned to Michigan in 1941 to be near her family.
It was there that she first got a taste of selflessly helping others when she opened a dance performance group which taught handicapped children rhythmic movement through styles such as the Foxtrot and Tango.
In 1948 she married Gerald Ford, the 38thPresident of the United States of America and was 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 one of her greater achievements was the legalization of abortion. She was a huge advocate of equal rights.
She lived in Washington DC for 30 years with Gerald and in 1974, the same year that Ford was sworn into office following the highly controversial resignation of Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal, Betty was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, an illness that she worked 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 term as president ended they moved back to Rancho Mirage butdue to a painful episode with a pinched nerve, Betty found herself having to also deal 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 inspired her to 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 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 ceaseless work brought her many awards and plaudits which included 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 who used her own experiences to help others.