Just back from paying our respects to Gerald R. Ford at the Ford Museum in downtown Grand Rapids. The line, of course, was long. We got in line at about 6:00 PM and left the museum just before 10:30. As we left, it appeared that the line was at least twice as long as it had been when we had joined it, and areas that we breezed through at nearly normal walking pace were at a standstill. Since it took us four and a half hours, I’d guess that folks getting in line now have a good nine hours, or probably even more, to go. [UPDATE: My boss got up and went at 3:00 AM and still had to wait two hours…still, that means things either sped up or a lot of people bailed.]
My wife and kids went downtown to watch the motorcade this afternoon. Though we’ve got no snow, it’s not what you’d call ‘warm’ outside, particularly if you’re standing still. Despite the chill, though, the crowd was large. My wife took the photo at right of the President’s hearse turning into the Museum property. As you can see, the crowd was deep and hordes of Eagle Scouts lined the way.
Someone gave my wife a glass vase with flowers to place among the notes, banners, flags, and candles that have been accumulating around the museum’s sign along Pearl Street, but they were unable to cross the street before they had to leave for a bit. So they stashed the flowers behind some bushes in front of a hotel across the street. More on the flowers later.
I returned with them and we got in line. After moving pretty quickly through the first three-quarters of the queue, we hit the traffic jam inside DeVos Place and settled down for a long wait. We opted to wait an extra twenty minutes or so to sign the guest book (my kids each signed their own name neatly, and I added a faux middle name of “Murdoc” to mine). There were a fair number of men and women in uniform (besides those working the event) but there were probably even more Masons in their regalia. (Pardon me if I misspoke. I don’t know if you call it a Mason “uniform” or what…)
After another chilly wait outside the museum itself, we got a few seconds in front of Ford’s closed casket. My son, in his Boy Scout uniform, gave a smart Scout salute. Then we were on our way.
As we left, we had the opportunity to shake hands with Steve Ford, one of the President’s sons. I was a bit surprised to see him there at 10:30 PM greeting folks in a line with no end in sight. As he shook my son’s hand Ford mentioned to him how much his father loved Scouting and how he had earned Eagle. That was very kind.
After we left the museum building, I stopped to check out the collection of flowers, flags, signs, University of Michigan hats and banners, candles, and whatnot along Pearl Street. While I looked, my wife and daughter headed across the street to check for the vase they had stashed that afternoon. It was still there, so over it came and it now sits with the rest of the outpouring from the community for all to see. Who gave the vase to my wife? We don’t know.
There’s a lot of difference in opinion about Ford and his Presidency, particularly over the pardon for Richard Nixon. But I think it’s becoming more clear each year that he inherited an almost impossible task and did a fine job of holding things together. That’s better than really could have been expected of anyone in that office at that time, and we owe him a lot.
Though not a native Michigander, I’m proud to live in Gerald Ford’s old Congressional district and I’m proud of the honor that West Michigan is showing it’s most famous legislator and politician. Also, I’m proud of my family for braving the crowd twice today to pay a final bit of respect to a man who did good for America and was a friend to Scouting.
Finally, here’s a shot from today of the 9-11 Scout Salute patch that my son earned in 2005 for participating in the all-day salute on the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. These are special Ford Council patches (compare them to the standard patches worn by the Eagle Scouts in the top picture) that can only be worn by those who take part in the sun-up to sun-down salute (in three or five minute intervals) each year. He’s earned the patch four years running, but he hasn’t got the 2006 patch onto his uniform yet. I had been bugging him to get the new one on, but, as it turns out, waiting was the right thing to do. The 2005 salute was performed outside the Ford Museum, so this patch was earned on this property and has now returned to help say farewell to a great American:
I noted the salute in 2004 with a pic of my son at attention, and now that I look I see that I also posted a pic in 2005, taken outside the Ford Museum on a sunny Sunday morning. Beside him in the 2005 pic is a fellow Scout who is now in the same Boy Scout patrol as my son. (Go DRAGONS!)
Did I mention that I’m proud of my family?
UPDATE: I changed the first picture to one (pointed out by my wife this morning after she went through all her pictures) with a better view of the hearse as it makes the turn into the Museum. Also, you can see the edge of the gathered mementos under the Pearl St. sign to the left of the vehicle.