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July 14, 2006
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Ford celebrates 93rd birthday in Vail

VAIL " Gerald Ford is America's most elder, elder statesman.

The former president and wife Betty, Vail's First Family, hit town this week to celebrate Gerald Ford's 93rd birthday.

"He's had a great day," said Ford's spokeswoman Penny Circle. "He's had calls from all the former presidents, cabinet members and lots of old friends."

The Fords are scheduled to be in the Vail Valley all summer, Circle said.

"They're enjoying being back," said Circle.

The Fords started coming to Vail to visit friends in 1968 when he was serving as one of Michigan's congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives, a career track he started when he won election in 1948.

He became the 38th President of the United States on Aug. 9, 1974, following Richard Nixon into the presidency, whom he later pardoned for Nixon's role in the Watergate affair.

During Ford's White House years, Vail became known as the Western White House and he did a good bit of the nation's business from The Lodge at Vail. Cabinet members and other high-ranking government officials were a common sight in Vail.

The national media followed Ford to Vail and almost daily they beamed television pictures of Vail's slopes into living rooms all over the world. That media saturation, as much or more than anything else, put Vail on the map as an international destination ski resort.

Long-time locals say Ford was an excellent skier who used to drive his Secret Service escorts to distraction when he plunged straight down the fall line of most runs, instead of staying near the edges like they wanted him to.

Ford, who graduated from the University of Michigan, is the only president to play sports for an NCAA Division 1 college. He was a standout lineman for the Wolverines and received offers from two professional football teams, the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. Instead, he took a coaching position at Yale where he earned his law degree in 1941.

He served in the U.S. Navy for four years during World War II. After a brief stint practicing law in Grand Rapids, Mich., Ford began his political career when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1948.

Since retiring from politics, he has been involved charitable and civic work.

In 1982, he established the AEI World Forum, an international gathering of former and current world leaders and business executives who discuss political and business policies impacting current issues.

The Fords were key fundraisers in building the Ford Amphitheater and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail.

He also served as a board member with the Vail Valley Foundation for 20 years, helping to bring two World Alpine Ski Championships to Colorado. The 1989 event was the first held outside Europe since the 1950s.

Ford established the Ford Cup skiing event in Vail in 1982, and created the Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament. The golf event drew some of the top names in golf and entertainment.

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 14, 2006 06:49PM Published Jul 14, 2006 06:49PM Copyright 2006 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.