Mourners bid final farewell to Ford - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Mourners bid final farewell to Ford

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Posted: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 11:34 am | Updated: 6:39 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Thousands of flag-waving mourners watched as a motorcade carrying the body of Gerald R. Ford made its way one last time through the streets of his boyhood hometown to the Ford family church, where an honor guard carried the late president's casket inside for a final funeral service.

His widow and four children were joined by more than 300 dignitaries and family friends for the service.

Afterward, the late president was to be interred in a private ceremony on his presidential museum grounds, overlooking the Grand River.

The ceremonies capped six days of official mourning, from services in California to the nation's capital to a 17-hour viewing Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at his presidential museum. Some 57,000 mourners with bundled-up children in tow had waited hours to file past the flag-draped casket in Grand Rapids.

Some said silent prayers, and young Boy Scouts saluted the 38th president.

"There aren't too many politicians like that any more. They kind've broke the mold when they made him," said Bill Phillips, a state government photographer who signed a book of condolences Wednesday morning at the museum.

Ford's four children spent a few moments alone with their father after the last of the visitors left, then the casket was taken to Grace Espiscopal Church. Former first lady Betty Ford had spent the morning in private, quiet reflection before the funeral.

The Ford family has belonged Grace Episcopal Church, in East Grand Rapids, since the early 1940s.

On Wednesday, Former President Jimmy Carter, who defeated Ford in 1976 but later became a close friend, sat in a front pew of the 350-seat church with Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who served in Ford's cabinet as his chief of staff and as his defense secretary, on either side of him.

Grand Rapids was the city's that Ford called home, and he played football for the University of Michigan's national championship teams in 1932 and 1933.

Many of the mourners wore Michigan hats and sweat shirts in his honor during the 17-hour viewing. Outside the museum, Julie Setlock stood by a makeshift memorial of flowers and candles and adjusted a football carrying the words "A true American and hometown hero."

Ford, who became president after Richard Nixon resigned, died Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 93.

Tuesday's elaborate national funeral service in Washington drew 3,000 people. President Bush spoke Tuesday, as did NBC newsman Tom Brokaw and Ford's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, among others.

"In President Ford, the world saw the best of America, and America found a man whose character and leadership would bring calm and healing to one of the most divisive moments in our nation's history," President Bush said in his eulogy.

Bush's father, the first President Bush, called Ford a "Norman Rockwell painting come to life" and cracked gentle jokes about Ford's reputation as an errant golfer.

Kissinger paid tribute to Ford's leadership in achieving nuclear arms control with the Soviets, pushing for the first political agreement between Israel and Egypt and helping to bring majority rule to southern Africa.

"In his understated way he did his duty as a leader, not as a performer playing to the gallery," Kissinger said. "Gerald Ford had the virtues of small town America."

Brokaw said Ford brought to office "no demons, no hidden agenda, no hit list or acts of vengeance," an oblique reference to the air of subterfuge that surrounded Nixon in his final days.

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