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Betty Ford, Wife of President Gerald Ford, Dies at 93

Updated: 11:26 p.m.

Former first lady Betty Ford has died at age 93, CNN reported Friday, citing the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

A family member told CNN that Ford died Friday evening with family at her side. Library and Museum Director Elaine Didier confirmed her death.

Ford was renowned for speaking candidly about her bout with breast cancer and her battle against alcohol and prescription drug addiction. She went on to co-found the Betty Ford Center, a facility in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for alcohol and drug dependency treatment.

In extending his condolences to Ford’s children, President Barack Obama praised the former first lady.

“Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion,” he said in a statement Friday night. “As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.”

Vice President Joseph Biden lauded Ford’s “strength, courage and determination that provided hope for millions of Americans seeking a healthier, happier future.”

“Her legacy and work will live on through the millions of lives she has touched and the many more who will continue to look to her for inspiration,” Biden said in a statement.

President George H.W. Bush presented Ford with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 for “selfless, strong, and refreshing leadership on a number of issues.” She and her husband, President Gerald Ford, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999 for “dedicated public service and outstanding humanitarian contributions.”

Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer on April 8, 1918, in Chicago and grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. She married Gerald Ford in 1948, the same year he was first elected to the House as a Republican representing a Michigan district.

Gerald Ford eventually rose to the position of minority leader and served in the House until 1973, when he resigned to succeed Spiro Agnew as vice president under President Richard Nixon. Agnew had been charged with accepting bribes and falsifying his federal tax returns; he pleaded no contest to the tax charge and stepped down. Within a year, Nixon had also resigned amid impeachment proceedings related to the Watergate scandal. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president on Aug. 9, 1974.

“As First Lady, she helped lift the spirits of a nation adrift and a president unexpectedly called to serve,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement offering his condolences to the Ford family, adding that her “name is synonymous with perseverance and personal triumph.”

Betty Ford studied modern dance and worked as a dancer, fashion model and fashion coordinator for a department store. Her marriage to Gerald Ford was her second; her first ended in divorce.

Betty and Gerald Ford had four children: Michael, Jack, Steven and Susan. Gerald Ford died on Dec. 26, 2006.

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