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A forthright first lady; In the end, her battles helped others.


Betty Ford, who died Friday at 93, left a lovely legacy, and an unusual one for a first lady.

She was likable for her faults.

And she was certainly straightforward - to a fault, some might say.

Mrs. Ford faced life head-on and openly. She had a mastectomy because of breast cancer shortly after her husband took office, the kind of diagnosis and details that weren't readily discussed in the mid-1970s. As first lady she was charmingly candid in interviews, not shying from hot-button topics such as premarital sex, career-making vs. homemaking, drugs, and abortion. She even alluded to enjoying sleeping with her husband in their king-size bed. A champion of women's rights, she and President Gerald Ford didn't always agree on issues, but an obvious and deep mutual affection marked their long marriage.

She is perhaps best remembered for her later fight against alcohol and pill addictions, out of which grew the famous Betty Ford Center in California.

Throughout her ups and downs she seemed womanly, motherly and friendly, the kind of person who would welcome a long kitchen-table chat. She enjoyed the trappings of high office and represented the nation with elegance and grace, but always, even in those heady first-lady years, seemed to lean most on herself.

Her insistence on knowing and being herself helped countless people find their own inner strengths, in good times and bad. Betty Ford was a fighter of life's battles, and because she fought so hard and so honestly, she won.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 12, 2011
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