Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Former first lady Betty Ford dies

Former US first lady Betty Ford has died at the age of 93 (AP)

President Barack Obama has led tributes to former US first lady Betty Ford, who died aged 93.

As wife to Gerald Ford, she was thrust into the spotlight in 1974 when he became president after Richard Nixon resigned.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer weeks later and won acclaim for her openness and courage.

Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Mrs Ford was later treated for drug and alcohol addiction and then helped found the Betty Ford Centre to help others.

During and after her years in the White House, from 1974 to 1977, she won acclaim for her candour, wit and courage as she fought breast cancer, severe arthritis and the twin addictions of drugs and alcohol. She also pressed for abortion rights and women's rights.

But it was her Betty Ford Centre, which rescued celebrities and ordinary people from addiction, that made her famous in her own right. She was modest about that accomplishment.

In a White House statement on Saturday, President Obama said that as first lady, Mrs Ford was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights. In his words, she "distinguished herself through her courage and compassion".

He noted that after she left the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. Obama said organisations such as the Betty Ford Centre will honour her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.

Family spokeswoman Barbara Lewandrowski said Ford will be buried alongside her husband at his namesake library in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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