By Mary Slosson
PALM DESERT, Calif (Reuters) - Betty Ford was
remembered at a memorial service in California Tuesday as a
mother, first lady, friend and "tireless advocate for those
Mourners at the service for Ford at St. Margaret's
Episcopal Church in Palm Desert included first lady Michelle
Obama, former President George W. Bush and Secretary of State
Ford, wife of late President Gerald Ford who helped found a
rehabilitation clinic that bears her name, died Friday at
the age of 93.
"Betty Ford was my friend and I'm honored to be here today
help celebrate her life, which was truly remarkable," former
first lady Rosalynn Carter said in eulogizing her White House
Carter recalled Ford as a woman who was never afraid to
speak the truth and had the courage to fight the stigma
surrounding illness and addiction. "She was a tireless advocate
for those struggling," Carter said.
Geoffrey Mason, a former board member of the Betty Ford
Clinic in nearby Rancho Mirage, followed Carter to the podium.
"Thank you God for bringing this extraordinary woman, this
brave and inspirational pioneer, into our lives," Mason said.
The service began as a military honor guard carried Ford's
casket into the church, tucked into the desert foothills and
surrounded by palm trees.
The dignitaries, including Obama, Clinton, Bush and former
first lady Nancy Reagan, sat shoulder to shoulder in a pew near
the front of the church.
The memorial service was preceded by a visitation for close
friends and family members, which was closed to the public.
Ford was a vocal supporter of women's rights while her
husband was president from 1974 to 1977.
She also led early efforts to raise awareness of the battle
against breast cancer after undergoing a mastectomy in 1974.
(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton)
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