Betty Ford Dies at 93

Celebrity News Jul. 9, 2011 AT 10:19AM
Betty Ford Dies at 93 Credit: Ron Galella/WireImage

Former First Lady Betty Ford died on Friday evening at age 93, the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum confirmed to CNN.

Ford made her mark far beyond Washington, D.C. as the co-founder (in 1982) of an eponymous Rancho Mirage, Calif. addiction center where many celebs -- Lindsay Lohan, Keith Urban, Ozzy Osbourne, Chevy Chase, Elizabeth Taylor, David Arquette -- have sought treatment over the years.

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Chicago-born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer wed budding Republican politician Gerald Ford (her second husband) in 1948, and they went on to have four children together. Ford (he died in 2006 at age 93) became Vice President of the U.S. in 1973 -- and became President just 10 months later following President Richard Nixon's resignation and impeachment.

Betty Ford quickly became a trailblazing First Lady, opening up in the press about her battle with breast cancer and speaking frankly about abortion, pre-marital sex and equal rights. Newsweek named her "Woman of the Year" in 1975.

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In 1978 (a year after President Ford was voted out of the White House), she entered a rehab facility to treat her addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs.

"My addiction was a combination of alcohol and the prescription drugs that ... both were a part of my life, but they did not become a problem until they overrode my common sense," she said in 2003.

The Betty Ford Clinic remains one of the most respected centers of its kind today.

President Barack Obama praised Ford as a "powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights" who "helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction." President George W. Bush added, "because of her leadership, many lives were saved."

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"As a staunch advocate for women's and equal rights, Betty paved the way for generations of women to follow," President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said. "Her courage, compassion, and commitment to helping our nation deal with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction helped thousands of people to a successful recovery and in the process she helped to save countless families."

"America fought her struggles with her and learned alongside her," Maria Shriver, a close pal of Betty's daughter Susan Ford, said. "She was brave, outspoken and kind."

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