Betty Ford, former first lady and founder of the acclaimed Betty Ford Center, passed away of natural causes aged 93 while in the care of staff at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage back in July 2011 and left a meaningful legacy to all addicts of the world.
Born in 1918 in Chicago on the morning of April 8thas Elizabeth Anne Bloomer, the soon-to-become Mrs. Ford spent her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the youngest of three.
During her childhood she loved to dance and at the age of 16 she moved to Manhattan where she landed her first job as a fashion model. Her dancing was restricted to leisure time but after becoming homesick she returned to Michigan in 1941 to be closer to her family.
The move was fortuitous as shortly after her arrival she got her first taste of selflessly helping others by opening a dance performance group which taught handicapped children rhythm through styles such as the Foxtrot and Tango.
In 1948 she was elevated to stardom by unusual means when married Gerald Ford, the 38thPresident of the United States of America, though he was not her first husband; that marriage ending two years before she married Ford.
Being the first lady of the United States of America (eventually) gave her the ideal platform to shout for her causes and she wasted no time campaigning for women’s rights. Among her many achievements was the legalization of abortion and she was an ambassador for those seeking equal rights.
She and Gerald lived together 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. During that period Betty was diagnosed with BreastCancerand she fought hard to bring it to the public’s attention. She urged women to seek help quickly so that they could have the illness treated properly.
When Gerald’s tenure as president ended they moved to Rancho Mirage but things turned sour for her when she suffered a pinched nerve. She became dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs to fight the pain but that escalated to a constant dependency on the drugs which took the intervention of her family to overcome.
In 1978 she admitted herself into the Long Beach Naval Hospital for treatment, a humbling experience which led to her open the Betty Ford Center in 1982.
The recovery center was a great success and to date has helped over 9,000 men and women, including hundreds of celebrities, to overcome various forms of addiction.
Betty penned her experiences in several novels including The Times of My Life(1978) and the 1987 book Betty: A Glad Awakening.
Betty Ford’s center will continue to help addicts to rehabilitate; a legacy which has rightly immortalised a caring and benevolent woman.
images: pbs.org, ndtv.com