07.08.11

Betty Ford Dies at 93

The former first lady, best remembered for founding a clinic to help others battle the addiction demons that she also faced, was 93.

Former first lady Betty Ford died Friday at the age of 93. Married to former President Gerald Ford, Elizabeth Bloomer Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and moved to New York in the 1930s to work as a model. Her husband was appointed vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew resigned, and then he became the unlikely 38th president upon Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974. At the White House, Betty Ford was considered the most active first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt. But at the same time, she underwent surgery for breast cancer and later become addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs, which then forced her family to stage an intervention in 1978. After her recovery, Ford started the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. No cause of death has been confirmed. Gerald Ford died in 2006.

In a statement, fellow former first lady Nancy Reagan said:

"I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford. She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center."

Former President George H.W. Bush also paid tribute:

"Barbara and I loved Betty Ford very much. She was a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous first lady."

President Obama shared his rememberance in a statement, writing the former first lady "distinguished herself through her courage and compassion.” He noted how Ford had worked to reduce the social stigma of addiction and inspired thousands to seek treatment.