Michelle Obama Joins Other Former First Ladies at Betty Ford's Funeral

Jul 13, 2011, 08:42 by R.E. Christian

Former first lady Betty Ford was remembered at her funeral service in California Tuesday as a woman unafraid of speaking out on taboo subjects.

Ford, the wife of Presidenrd Gerald Ford, got the world's attention back in the 1970s and '80s when she spoke out on abortion, premarital sex, women's rights and her own confrontations with breast cancer and drug and alcohol addiction, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Fellow former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who with her husband Jimmy, followed the Fords to the White House, called Betty Ford "someone who was willing to do things a bit differently than they'd been done before, someone who had the courage and grace to fight fear, stigma and prejudice wherever she encountered it."

Cokie Roberts, a longtime friend and national television news reporter, said even in death Ford, who passed away Friday at 93, exerted her will on events by leaving behind directions on matters she wanted touched upon.

"Mrs. Ford wanted me to remind everyone of the way things used to be in Washington," Roberts said, "and I wouldn't be at all surprised if she timed her death to make sure that she could convey the message of comity this week, when it seems so badly needed."

The audience at the 800-seat St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert also included first lady Michelle Obama and two other former first ladies, Nancy Reagan and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ford also received a moving tribute by a former director of the rehabilitation center she started, Geoffrey Mason, who introduced himself thusly: "Good afternoon. I'm Geoff. I'm an alcoholic."

Mason spoke movingly on behalf of those who had sought treatment at the center and who knew its founder as Betty, a recovering alcoholic.

He said Ford's willingness to go public with her struggles with addition meant "maybe, just maybe � we also could get some relief from the darkness that we had become almost comfortable with, from the abyss that we had fallen into."

Ford's casket remained in the church for public viewing until midnight, the Times said. She is to be buried Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich, alongside her husband.

Source: UPI