Remembering Betty Ford

By: Janelle Lilley Email
By: Janelle Lilley Email

She was the wife of America's 38th president, but Betty Ford was so much more than a face in the White House, she was a crusader for a cause.

Don Wilson now serves as Director of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, but before coming to the Valley, he worked for several years with President and Betty Ford to open and then serve as Director of their presidential library in Michigan.

Wilson says he will remember Betty Ford for her courage.

"Her ability to be as open as she really became with her difficulties and struggles," says Wilson.

Ford's first battle was with breast cancer in a time when women simply didn't talk about it.

"That really was a breakthrough in the medical field for women to be so open," remembers Wilson.

Ford also struggled with an addiction to painkillers and alcohol.

"It was pretty difficult to hide it, but she never tried to. She stepped up and announced to the world," recalls Wilson.

Ford began working for her cause, bringing attention to an addiction many struggle with here in the Valley. She became a crusader and influenced the role of first lady.

"There's a sense of public service with the first ladies in more recent times," says Wilson.

Even after her death, Wilson says that legacy will continue.

"It may lend credence to the old saying that behind every great man is a very strong woman," says Wilson.


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