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Events honor President Gerald Ford's 100th birthday

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Monday, July 15, 2013 - 8:35 am

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Two ceremonies in Grand Rapids and a public television documentary broadcast Sunday marked the centennial of President Gerald Ford's birth.

Ford, born July 14, 1913, represented western Michigan in the U.S. House before Republican President Richard Nixon named him as vice president in 1974 to replace Spiro Agnew. Ford became president with Nixon's own resignation that year but lost the race for a full term in 1976 to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

A presidential wreath-laying ceremony was held Sunday afternoon at Ford's tomb. It was followed by the unveiling of a scale model of the USS Gerald R. Ford in the lobby of the Ford Presidential Museum. The $12.8 billion aircraft carrier is under construction and is scheduled to enter the U.S. fleet in 2016.

Among those who spoke at the observance was Capt. John Meier, the aircraft carrier's first commanding officer. Under construction since 2009, the 1,110-foot ship will carry 75 planes and a crew of 4,660.

Ford's daughter Susan Ford Bales also spoke.

Ford was remembered with special warmth by one former Vietnam War refugee.

Tiennga Cao told MLive.com that she was adrift for weeks on the Pacific Ocean after Saigon fell to Communist forces in 1975. Cao said conditions were growing dire when Ford persuaded Congress to aid the thousands of refugees like Cao, who was 20 at the time.

"He gave us a chance," said Cao, 58, who now lives in Kentwood after moving to the Grand Rapids area 20 years ago. "Without him, I didn't know where I was going to be.

"I personally thanked him for bringing us to the United States, to welcome us in his homeland, and really, his hometown. It just an honor to see him and get a picture with him. That's a once-in-a-lifetime chance."

Ford died Dec. 26, 2006. He and his wife, Betty, are buried on the grounds of his presidential library and museum in Grand Rapids.

Also Sunday, PBS stations in Michigan were showing a documentary called, "Black and Blue: The Story of Gerald Ford, Willis Ward and the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech Football Game." The film chronicles the Georgia Tech football team's refusal to take the field at Michigan because the Wolverines had a black player who was Ford's friend.