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Former first lady Betty Ford laid to rest in Michigan

The public left candles, flowers, notes and other items at the foot of the museum's sign. An American flag had writing in the white stripes that read "Thanks for teaching us all to be first ladies."

As first lady, Betty Ford publicly tackled breast cancer and a dependence on alcohol and pain pills. She lent her name to two institutions, the Betty Ford Breast Care Services at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and the Betty Ford Center in California.

The Fords remained close to the hearts of Grand Rapids' populace, which Gerald Ford represented in Congress for nearly a quarter century starting in 1949.

While both Fords were born elsewhere, each moved to Grand Rapids as a toddler and grew up in the solidly Republican area. They were married in the Grace Episcopal congregation in 1948.

Over the years, the Fords lent their support to numerous fund-raising efforts in western Michigan.

Once dubbed the "fighting first lady" by Time magazine for her outspoken political views, Ford was a vocal supporter of women's rights while her husband was president from 1974 to 1977.

Ford led early efforts to raise awareness of the battle against breast cancer after undergoing a mastectomy in 1974, less than two months after her husband succeeded the disgraced Richard Nixon as president.

"At once a traditionalist and a trail blazer, a Sunday school teacher and a Seventh Avenue model, Mrs. Ford was the feminist next door, a free spirit with a dress code," Smith said.

(Editing by Jerry Norton, Peter Bohan and Cynthia Johnston)

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