Americans remembered former President Gerald R. Ford on Tuesday for what he did not have pretensions, a scheming agenda, a great golf game as much as for the small-town authenticity he brought to the presidency.
In an elaborate national funeral service in Washington, D.C. and then more simply at his final homecoming in Grand Rapids, the 38th president was celebrated for treating politics as a calling rather than blood sport.
The last act of Ford's state funeral was playing out at his presidential museum, open throughout the night and Wednesday morning for the public to pay final respects. About 5,000 people an hour were filing past Ford's casket Tuesday night, waiting in line four hours on average, according to the National Guard.
Scouts came forward three by three and saluted by his casket to open 18 hours of visitation, before a final church service and Ford's hillside burial Wednesday afternoon.
The marching band from the University of Michigan, the school where he played football, greeted the White House jet carrying his casket, members of his family and others in the funeral party.
The service in Washington unfolded in the spirit of one of its musical selections "Fanfare for the Common Man" as powerful people celebrated the modesty and humility of a leader propelled to the presidency by the Watergate crisis that drove predecessor Richard Nixon from office.
"In President Ford, the world saw the best of America, and America found a man whose character and leadership would bring calm and healing to one of the most divisive moments in our nation's history," President George W. Bush said in his eulogy, reports AP.
Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush pierced the solemnity of the occasion by cracking gentle jokes about Ford's reputation as an errant golfer. He said Ford knew his golf game was getting better when he began hitting fewer spectators.
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