Vail honors Vail’s first lady |

Vail honors Vail’s first lady

Beth Slifer with Betty Ford.

VAIL – Vail’s First Lady, Betty Ford, was honored recently on a beautiful summer evening at the gardens that are her namesake, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.A tent there was filled to capacity with old friends and new admirers who came to thank her for her contributions – not only to our community, but to an entire generation.When she entered the tent, the crowd rose to their feet and applauded as she and her husband, former president Gerald Ford, took their seats for the festive evening. “She is a dancer who gave unprecedented support to the arts. A wife and mother forced to meet life’s challenges on the world stage. She is an outspoken advocate for women’s health and treatment who radically changed our approach to breast cancer. She is a role model who destigmatized addiction and provided an enduring haven of understanding and treatment for thousands. She is possessed of an expansive heart, a quick wit, and a sly sense of humor. “She is the first to dance, to call, to listen, to hear. She is the first to speak out. She is the first to help. She is down-to-earth and reluctantly set on a pedestal.” So reads the final page of “Betty Ford Vail Valley’s First Lady,” by Elizabeth Eber and Jane Imber. The book was written especially for this event and given as a gift to all of the guests that evening.Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who attended the event, said, “She’s a truly remarkable woman; teaching us as a nation how to deal with life’s challenges.”

Vail Mayor Rod Slifer concurred. “She’s been a friend and open-hearted neighbor for many years,” he said. Ford’s old friend Sheika Gramshammer relayed a story of when Betty’s daughter, Susan, stayed with her for a brief time. Escapades ensued, but trust prevailed.”The greatest friendship,” said Sheika, “is trusting another with your child when you’re away.”When Ford had her moment on stage, she proceeded in her well-known modest manner, humbly accepting the honor of the evening. She was given a leather-bound book filled with memoirs, photos and letters.”It’s all a big fib,” she said to her children about the honors she has garnered through her lifetime. “It’s just mother as always.”She had the audience laughing after she was assisted to the stage by secret service. “I saw my husband looking lovingly across the table at me, all the while thinking, ‘She’ll be hard to lift!'” Ford said. “I was delighted to learn the idea, the very seed of this garden, happened on the way to Vail,” she said, referring to the serendipitous car failure years ago that brought garden founders Helen Fritch and Marty Jones together.

June Vanourek, president of the board of directors of the Alpine Gardens organized the event along with her husband, and Bob and Karin Weber and Barbara Treat. “Betty Ford; Vail Valley’s First Lady,” is available at the Alpine Gardens Gift shop in Vail Village and at the Schoolhouse Museum for $24.95. Call 970-479-7365 for more information. ==========================================On the social radarThe annual Habitat for Humanity golf tournament will be played at Red Sky Ranch on Sept. 16. It’ll sell out, so get your team together now. Call 748-6718 to participate. The hole-in-one prize is $100,000.==========================================

==========================================Heard at high altitudeWhen asked what she does when her husband, Steve, is off on new challenges, Peggy Fossett simply replied as all women would, “I shop!”==========================================Vail, Colorado

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