This is a photo of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Gerald R. Ford chose Grand Rapids to be his final resting place and considered this town his home. In 1999 I was privileged to work on the Kent County International Airport’s annual profile when the ad agency I work for (Allie Design Group) was selected to create it. This was the year the airport was renamed the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
I coordinated our efforts with President Ford’s assistant, Marty Allen. Previous to this experience I had a skeptical impression of all politicians, Ford included. What I discovered changed my mind, about him at least. We had access to many of President Ford’s personal photos and looking at them, it was easy to see he was a caring, sincere man who deeply loved his country. We selected a variety of photos of his life including one of him in the White House relaxing with a pipe in his mouth. We were told we could use this picture, but only if the pipe was Photoshopped out of his mouth. President Ford had since quit smoking and didn’t want to be a negative influence.
In the final draft of the letter we were to print from him on the inside front cover of the airport profile, President Ford recalled his feelings for Grand Rapids. When I read it, I told Marty that I thought the letter should be toned down, I thought maybe it was a little too much. Marty paused and then insisted “No Ann, that IS how he feels about Grand Rapids. Don’t change a word.” I believed him.
Here’s what Gerald R. Ford had to say about Grand Rapids, “In a long and eventful life, many honors have come my way. Few compare with having my hometown airport bear my name. None can surpass the proudest claim of my life – I am from Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
Years later, tens of thousands of Grand Rapids citizens lined the streets for President Ford’s funeral procession. I took the photo at the bottom of this post during the 21 gun salute at his burial. As a canon blasted away at dusk one of the shots formed a perfect smoke ring.
We love you too President Ford.