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Betty Ford

Betty Ford was a former First Lady of the United States (August 9th, 1974 - January 20th, 1977). She was the wife of President Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States.

Her own battle with breast cancer led to her advocacy for early breast cancer detection. Mrs. Ford also co-founded the Betty Ford Center for the treatment of chemical dependency.

Betty Ford
Betty Ford
Biographical fast facts

Full, original or maiden name at birth: Elizabeth Ann Bloomer *

Date, time and place of birth: April 8, 1918, at 3:46 p.m., Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. **

Date, place and cause of death: July 8, 2011, Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.A. (Complications from a stroke)

Marriage #1
Spouse: William "Bill" Warren (m. 1942 - September 22, 1947) (divorced)
Wedding took place at 636 Fountain Street, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.

Marriage #2
Spouse: Gerald Ford (m. October 15, 1948 - December 26, 2006) (his death)
Wedding took place just after 4 p.m., at Grace Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.

Sons: Michael Gerald Ford (b. March 14, 1950, Washington, D.C.)
John Gardner Ford (known as Jack Ford) (b. March 16, 1952, at about 1 a.m., Washington, D.C.)
Steven Meigs Ford (b. May 19, 1956)

Daughter: Susan Elizabeth Ford (b. July 6, 1957)

Father: William Stephenson Bloomer (a traveling salesman) (b. July 19, 1874, Indiana - d. 1934, Grand Rapids, Michigan, of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning)
Mother: Hortense (Neahr) Bloomer (d. November 20, 1948, at 6 a.m., Hollywood, Florida, of a cerebral hemorrhage) ***

Burial site: Gerald R. Ford Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.
(NOTE: A few sources erroneously reported she was buried in Palm Springs, California, while others claimed her final resting place was in Palm Desert, California.)

Error corrections or clarifications

* Several sources, including Encyclopedia Britannica misspell Betty Ford's middle name "Anne" when, in point of fact, it's spelled Ann. Mrs. Ford confirms numerous times throughout her autobiographies that it's spelled Ann.

** "April 18, 1918" is erroneously reported as Mrs. Ford's date of birth by some sources. The above April 8th date is the d.o.b. the former First Lady herself reports as her birth date.

*** A few sources erroneously report her father committed suicide. Mrs. Ford specifically addresses the fact that her father's death was accidental in her autobiography: "Then, the year I was sixteen, my father died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He had gone out to the garage to work on the car; it was a summer day, very overcast, very humid. The garage doors were open, he had the engine running, and he'd got under the car to fiddle with something. A couple of friends from Detroit had stopped by the house to visit and Mother went out to the garage to get Dad to come in, and she found him. The ignition was on, but the motor wasn't running any more. The car must have run out of gas, and the air was so heavy."

NOTE: Her mother's first name is spelled Hortense, not "Hortence" as a couple of sources erroneously report. Again, the former First Lady herself reports Hortense is the proper spelling of her mother's name.

Biography - Residences of Betty Ford

Elizabeth Ann Bloomer was born in Chicago, Illinois. At age two, her family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she would spend the remainder of her early years. As was common for many young girls, Betty was enrolled in dance classes at the age of eight. Though she was a tomboy who relentlessly tagged along with her two older brothers, Bill Bloomer, Jr. and Bob Bloomer, it wasn't long before she'd developed a true passion for dance. She was only 14 when she began giving dance lessons. She continued as a dance instructor in Grand Rapids until 1939. The next two years Betty spent in New York City, studying dance with the legendary Martha Graham and eventually became a member of one of Martha Graham's dance groups. At the request of her mother, she returned to Grand Rapids. She resumed teaching dance and was the fashion coordinator at a local department store. In 1942, she married Bill Warren, with whom she'd attended her first dance at age twelve. The marriage ended in divorce just five years later.

Within a year of their divorce, she met and married a lawyer and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander by the name of Gerald Ford. The quiet life in Grand Rapids she envisioned as the wife of an attorney was not to be. Just two weeks after their marriage, Jerry was elected to his first term as a U.S. Congressman representing Michigan's Fifth Congressional District. He went on to serve a total of 13 terms until his resignation from the House of Representatives, December 6th, 1973, to become the fortieth Vice President of the United States. President Nixon selected Gerald Ford, the minority leader of the House, to replace scandal-plagued Vice President Spiro T. Agnew.

By this point in time, the Ford clan had expanded to include three sons and one daughter. Just eight months after Ford's appointment, President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in the midst of the Watergate scandal. Betty became the First Lady, and her husband was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.

In 1974, shortly after becoming First Lady, Mrs. Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy. Rather than hide her struggle with the disease from public view, the First Lady was very open about her experiences. Her battle with cancer led to her advocacy for increased awareness of the importance of early breast cancer detection. Betty was credited with saving lives by prompting women around the country to seek breast exams.

Following her recovery from years of alcohol and prescription drug abuse, Mrs. Ford co-founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, in 1982, for the treatment of chemical dependency. Thanks to her tireless work, the Betty Ford Center became one of the best known, most respected alcohol and drug abuse treatment facilities in the world. The former First Lady was not merely a figurehead at the facility, but was an active, hands-on Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Betty Ford Center. Since its founding, popular singers, actors, sports legends and other celebrities, as well as ordinary citizens, have sought to overcome their addictions at the premier treatment center.

Throughout her life as a U.S. Congressman's wife, the wife of the Vice President, then as First Lady, she spoke openly and honestly on all subjects. Her unflagging candor occasionally generated controversy in the press, but the public always appreciated her willingness to speak frankly on subjects most in the political arena avoid like the plague. As she had in the past, Betty Ford talked openly about her recovery from substance abuse. This led to far greater understanding of the subject by the general public, and a willingness to confront and overcome an issue which had long been swept under the rug.

Mrs. Ford wrote her autobiography The Times of My Life published in 1978, and a follow up autobiography Betty: A Glad Awakening (1987). The latter delved more deeply into her alcoholism and drug dependency and recounted the entire process of her recovery.

In October 1999, President and Mrs. Ford were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for "dedicated public service and outstanding humanitarian contributions."

Her husband died December 26th, 2006, at 6:45 p.m., at their desert home in Rancho Mirage, California.

In recognition of her many contributions to Vail Valley and the world beyond, the world's highest botanic garden, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, Colorado, were named in her honor. The internationally renowned gardens are located high in the Rocky Mountains and offer a stunning display of rare high altitude plants, wildflowers, waterfalls and rock gardens. In 2007, a daylily that was named for her, bloomed for the first time at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The exquisite new red daylily, Hemerocallis Betty Ford or the Betty Ford Daylily, was developed by David Kirchhoff to honor Betty Ford and her effort to educate the public about breast cancer following her successful battle with the disease. The Fords were beloved part-time residents of Vail, and consequently, a number of other facilities in the area were named in their honor.

In August 2007, the former First Lady made her first public appearance since her husband's funeral to celebrate the release of a new U.S. postage stamp honoring Pres. Gerald R. Ford.

Mrs. Ford died July 8, 2011, at the Eisenhower Medical Center, in Rancho Mirage, California.

Residences of Betty Ford:
Note that these residences may no longer exist, and it's possible the addresses have changed over the years. This is not to suggest that Mrs. Ford owned each and every one of these structures. We're only reporting the fact that she called them home at one point or another in her life.

Ground floor apartment on the corner of Washington and Prospect, Grand Rapids, Michigan
636 Fountain St., Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.
2500 Q Street, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
514 Crown View Drive, Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A.
1624 Sherman, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
40365 Sand Dune Road, Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.A.


The most in-depth of more than four dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile:
Betty Ford: The Times of My Life, (Mrs. Ford's 1978 autobiography written with Chris Chase)
A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford, (1979)
Jerry Ford: Up Close, by Bud Vestal (1974)

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