President Ford turns 90
President Gerald R. Ford, who with former first lady Betty Ford has been coming to the Vail Valley for more than three decades, celebrated turning 90 years old Monday at his home in Beaver Creek.
“It seems to me that Vail got two blessings,” said Harry Frampton, a friend of the Fords since 1982. “The first blessing is Vail Mountain itself, the best ski mountain in the world. The second blessing is President Ford, because no one has even come close to making the personal contributions Ford has made.”
Celebrating at home
Ford planned to spend his birthday at home having dinner with Betty, daughter Susan Ford Bales and her husband, Vaden Bales, said Penny Circle, Ford’s chief of staff.
His other three sons, Michael, Jack and Steven and their families visited the former president over the Fourth of July weekend, Circle said.
“The president and his wife are leaving for Washington on Wednesday for a dinner party in his honor at the White House,” Circle said. “President Bush is hosting the party.”
President Ford attended the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival concert Saturday at the outdoor amphitheater in Vail named after him, a crowd sang “happy birthday” to him. The former president stood up and waved to the public.
“He is doing great; he has no health problems,” Circle said.
Frampton said he still goes out with Ford and occassionally plays golf with him. The Fords live in Beaver Creek from June through October. The rest of the year they spend in Palm Springs, Calif..
“The wonderful thing about the Fords is that over the years they have been very involved with the community,” Frampton said. “They are not takers; they are givers. They truly have been in touch with the community.”
This winter, President Ford plans to light the Christmas tree in Vail for the 30th time, Circle said.
Ford brought notoriety to Vail when he was the 38th president of the United States and came here skiing with his family. His commitment to ski racing helped Vail get the sport’s world championships in 1989 and 1999. He also was instrumental in the construction of the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail and in running the annual World Forum in Beaver Creek.
A founding member of the Vail Valley Foundation’s board of directors, Ford has been an active participant for 22 years, said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation.
“It would be fair to say that the Vail Valley Foundation wouldn’t exist without President Ford’s contributions to our organization,” Folz said. “From the amphitheater to the World Championships, President Ford has been instrumental in many of our largest endeavors. He has lent more than just his name. He is a hands-on, involved participant. His passion for the community is evident in his legacy both in name and spirit.”
President Ford also was influential in getting the funds for the Beaver Creek chapel, Frampton said.
“He also ran the World Forum for 23 years,” Frampton said. “And Betty Ford got the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens built.
“They spolit us. I don’t think we would have got all these things done without their help,” he said. “We’ve been lucky. Think how much poorer our community would be without these things that make Vail what it is.”
Frank Johnson, president of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, said Ford’s name and the prestige that he brings as a part-time resident of the valley have been of significance, but just as important has been his family’s participation in helping build the community.
“Whether it’s fund-raising to build the amphitheater, or the Betty Ford Gardens, the Fords have been active in building the community we have now,” Johnson said. “That’s President Ford’s legacy: his energy and enthusiasm and willingness to work on behalf of the community. On his birthday, I would like to tell him, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.