Skip to main content

Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton to attend service for Betty Ford

By the CNN Wire Staff
A memorial is set up for former first lady Betty Ford, who died at age 93, at the University of Michigan campus.
A memorial is set up for former first lady Betty Ford, who died at age 93, at the University of Michigan campus.
  • NEW: Former President George W. Bush to attend, but not Laura Bush
  • Secretary Clinton praises Betty Ford for breaking taboos
  • Ford will have a public funeral in California, and a private burial in Michigan
  • Ford died Friday at age 93

Washington (CNN) -- Current and past first ladies Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan will attend a memorial service Tuesday in California for former first lady Betty Ford.

The White House announced that Obama would travel to Palm Desert, California, for the Tuesday service, which will be followed by a private funeral Thursday in Michigan.

Clinton, the current secretary of state, will be accompanied Tuesday by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, an aide told CNN. Reagan also will attend the California service at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, a Reagan Foundation official said.

Former President George W. Bush also will attend the service but without his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, who had previous travel commitments, according to a spokesman. Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, will attend the Michigan funeral, the spokesman said.

Following the Tuesday service, Ford's remains will lie in repose at the church until midnight, then be flown on Wednesday to Michigan to the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, according to a website on the memorial plans. Ford's remains will then lie in repose there beginning at 7 p.m. local time, said a statement posted on the website.

On Thursday, Ford's private funeral will be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, the statement on the website said.

Ford, who died Friday at age 93, raised awareness of issues involving women's rights, cancer, alcoholism and substance abuse during and after her stint as first lady. Her late husband, former President Gerald Ford, died in 2006.

The alcohol and substance abuse treatment center in Rancho Mirage, California, that bears her name has become one of the best-known facilities of its kind in the country.

In remarks to reporters Monday, Clinton said she was "grateful for having known" Ford.

"Her commitment to speaking out on issues that, before she took them on, were just not discussed made a huge difference in the lives of Americans," Clinton said.

"I remember well when my mother's best friend was dying of breast cancer, nobody talked about it in those days," Clinton continued. "But Betty Ford made it acceptable" to discuss the issue in public.

Also planning to be in California for the Tuesday service are protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas, which cited on its website what it called Ford's infidelity by divorcing a first husband to marry Gerald Ford.

The church is known for publicity seeking protests at funerals of U.S. soldiers and others to promote its radical conservative Christian agenda.

CNN's Elise Labott and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.