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Ford remembered as sailor, congressman and president in state funeral services honoring intersections of his life

Ford remembered as sailor, congressman and president in state funeral services honoring intersections of his life

With the thunder of cannon and the whistle of a bos'n pipe, the U.S. capital honored Gerald R. Ford's memory Saturday in funeral ceremonies recalling the touchstones of his life, from combat in the Pacific to a career he cherished in Congress to a presidency he did not seek.
Old colleagues, today's leaders and ordinary Americans remembered him as a man called to heal the country from the wounds of Watergate, the scandal that shattered Richard Nixon's presidency in 1974 and brought the even-keeled Ford to the White House.
Ford's decision to pardon Nixon, so divisive at the time that it probably cost him the 1976 presidential election, was dealt with squarely in his funeral services by his old chief of staff, Vice President Dick Cheney.
"It was this man, Gerald R. Ford, who led our republic safely though a crisis that could have turned to catastrophe," said Cheney, speaking in the Capitol Rotunda where Ford's body rested in a flag-draped casket. "Gerald Ford was almost alone in understanding that there can be no healing without pardon."
An aircraft from the White House fleet brought Ford's body to Andrews Air Force Base from services near his adopted California home, where mourners streamed past his casket in quiet remembrance.
The arrival opened the Washington portion of Ford's state funeral, with a procession that took his casket to the World War II memorial, past the White House without pausing and on to the U.S. Capitol for the first service and a lying in state that continues until Tuesday.
The Rotunda ceremony was interrupted when William Broomfield, 84, a former Michigan congressman who served with Ford in Congress, collapsed. He was laid out on the floor of the Rotunda, and attended to by Sen. Bill Frist, a physician, before being taken out on a wheelchair.
Although Ford's family planned the state funeral to emphasize Ford's long service in the House of Representatives, Watergate quickly set the tone of the proceedings.
"In our nation's darkest hour, Gerald Ford lived his finest moment," said Republican Sen. Ted Stevens told the Rotunda service. "He was the man the hour required."
Said House Speaker Dennis Hastert: "In 1974 America didn't need a philosopher-king or a warrior-prince. We needed a healer, we needed a rock, we needed honesty and candor and courage. We needed Gerald Ford."
Lights bathed the granite arch of the war memorial commemorating the Pacific theater as Ford's nighttime funeral procession, bearing his wife, Betty, and the casket of the 38th president, stopped there in tribute to his years as an ensign and gunnery officer. The other arch, representing the Atlantic theater, stood in darkness.
Mrs. Ford sat stoically in the snaking line of gleaming limousines, clutching a tissue and dabbing her face on occasion, then walked slowly at the Capitol in the arm of her military escort, soon followed by the casket bearing her husband of 58 years. Another round of cannon fire rang out.
After the ceremony, Mrs. Ford walked to the casket with the aid of her son and rested her clasped hands briefly on top of it.


Updated : 2021-05-16 15:26 GMT+08:00