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Gerald Ford funeral begins with simple ceremony at family church

Gerald Ford funeral begins with simple ceremony at family church

Six days of national mourning for former President Gerald Ford began with military honors and a simple family prayer service at his parish church as members of the public waited for hours for a chance to pay respects before he left California for the last time.
Former first lady Betty Ford, 88, and her children watched as uniformed enlisted men from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines on Friday carried Ford's flag-draped casket into St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, where the Fords worshipped for 30 years after retiring from Washington.
In solemn and crisply executed ritual, a Marine Corps band played the hymn "O God Our Help in Ages Past" and a sailor honored Ford's Navy service by carrying an ebony staff flying the presidential seal.
"We receive the body of our brother, Gerald, for burial," the Rev. Robert Certain, church rector, said as the casket was carried inside. It was then placed before the blond-wood altar and wreaths of white flowers, and an Army general escorted Mrs. Ford and the family to their seats.
The private family service was followed by a visitation for invited friends including former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Congressman Jack Kemp and former California Governor Pete Wilson. When it ended, Mrs. Ford left in a motorcade headed back to the Ford home in the neighboring city of Rancho Mirage.
Ford was to lie in repose for public viewing of the closed casket until Saturday morning.
About 5:20 p.m., an hour behind schedule, buses began bringing people from a tennis center 5 miles (8 kilometers) away. Mourners ranging from children to the elderly walked through quickly and then reboarded their buses.
A modest early turnout at the staging area grew during the evening. No official count was kept, but buses carrying about 50 people per trip came and went steadily. The trip took about three hours by late Friday.
Earlier, a Boeing 747 from the presidential fleet descended in the distance toward Palm Springs airport as a motorcade brought Ford's casket and family to the church. Local police saluted and residents of the desert resort region watched silently as it passed.
On Saturday, Mrs. Ford will board the 747 and accompany her husband's body across the nation for two services in Washington, D.C., and his burial in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Jan. 3.
Ford died Tuesday at age 93. He became president when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal, but was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election. He was a Republican congressman from Michigan when Nixon named him vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973.
The New York Stock Exchange announced Friday it would join the Nasdaq and close on Tuesday, the day of Ford's state funeral in Washington, D.C. It's a Wall Street tradition that dates back to the 1885 burial of President Ulysses S. Grant. The U.S. Postal Service said there would be no mail delivery or retail service at post offices on Tuesday.
On Saturday, after an all-night viewing for the public at St. Margaret's, Ford's body will be flown from Palm Springs Airport to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.
The coffin will be taken to the Capitol in a funeral procession, then carried up the steps of the East Front of the House by military escort. It will lie in repose in front of the House chamber and be carried into the Rotunda for a ceremony and public viewing before being moved to the National Cathedral on Tuesday for funeral services there.
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Associated Press Writers Allison Hoffman in Palm Desert and Laurie Kellman in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
On the Net:
http://geraldfordmemorial.com


Updated : 2020-12-02 21:52 GMT+08:00