Bush joins Ford mourners; Washington funeral today
By Deb Riechmann
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — President Bush bowed his head in silence on Monday before the flag-draped casket of Gerald R. Ford, joining thousands of mourners who paid their respects to the man who guided the nation after the tumultuous Watergate years.
Silence fell under the Capitol dome when the president and his wife, Laura, walked toward the casket, illuminated by spotlights and guarded at each corner by members of a military honor guard. The president, who will eulogize Ford today, said nothing during the brief, one-minute visit Monday.
As three days of public viewing drew to a close, Ford’s widow, Betty, returned to the Capitol and sat in the Rotunda for about 20 minutes with her three sons, her daughter and their spouses. She clutched the hand of son Michael. Son Steven helped her up when she walked over to the casket, touching it one last time.
Two of the former president’s grandchildren, Heather Vance and Tyne Vance Berlanga, embraced after they were overcome with emotion at the casket.
It was a rainy, overcast day, and people waited in line under umbrellas and parka hoods to say farewell to Ford, who died Dec. 26 at age 93.
Funeral services will be held today at Washington’s National Cathedral, where a bell will toll 38 times for the 38th president. Ford will be buried at his presidential museum in Michigan.
On Monday, ordinary Americans started the new year by joining official Washington in paying their respect to the former president.
Karen Olson, 53, of Herndon, Va., said the rain couldn’t dampen her determination to see Ford. Her mother, who’s now deceased, was on his staff, she said.
“I wanted to come pay my respects. He was a big part of my life,” said Olson, who was among the people lined up before 9 a.m. EST to enter the Capitol building. “I have a lot of ties to his family.”
“The few times that I met him, he was just really nice,” she said.
Both of Olson’s parents have passed away.
“I kind of felt like I wanted to be there for them,” she said. “There’s just an emotional connection there.”
Among the dignitaries to pay their respects Monday were Bush’s parents, former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara; former President Bill Clinton and former first lady Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who this week becomes the first woman speaker of the House; Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; former Vice President Dan Quayle; and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Mid-afternoon, members of Ford’s family greeted mourners. Michael Ford and his sister, Susan Ford Bales, handed remembrance cards to some of the visitors.
The blue cards had the presidential, vice presidential and House of Representatives seals and a biography of Ford on one side. On the other was a photograph of the former president in the Oval Office, his head bowed.
The message on the card: “The family of Gerald R. Ford deeply appreciates your prayers and many kindnesses as together we celebrate and honor the life of a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and the 38th president of the United States.”
Michael Ford shook 8-year-old Christopher Witkowski’s hand and gave him one of the cards. “My father would have wanted you to have this,” he told Christopher, from Alexandria, Va.
Bush last week praised Ford as a “true gentleman.”
All times are Central Standard:
8:15 a.m.: Lying in State ends.
8:30 a.m.: The remains will depart the Rotunda and rest at the closed Senate doors in honor of Ford’s service as vice president of the United States and president of the Senate. The motorcade will then proceed to the Washington National Cathedral, passing the White House.
9 a.m.: The remains will be received with ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral.
9:30 a.m.: National funeral service begins.
10:30 a.m.: The remains will depart with ceremony from Washington National Cathedral. A motorcade will transport the casket from the cathedral to Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
11:15 a.m.: Departure ceremony from Andrews.
1:15 p.m.: Body will arrive at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Grand Rapids, Mich. The casket will then be moved by motorcade to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, for a brief private service. During the service, wreaths will be placed at the casket by the presidents of Yale University and the University of Michigan in honor of President Ford’s law degree and undergraduate degree from those institutions, respectively.
Following the service, Ford’s remains will lie in repose from 5 p.m. today until 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3. The public is invited to pay respects at the museum during repose.
12 noon: Remains will depart the museum with ceremony and proceed to Grace Episcopal Church, East Grand Rapids, for a private funeral service for invited guests only.
12:30 p.m.: Remains arrive at the church with ceremony. Following the service, the remains will depart the church with ceremony.
2 p.m.: Remains will proceed to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum for a private interment service.
2:30 p.m.: Interment service and burial.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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