The family and friends of President Gerald Ford bid farewell to the former chief executive Friday, in the first of a series of memorial services. Mr. Ford, the 38th US president, died Tuesday at the age of 93. Mike O'Sullivan reports, five days of commemorations began in California, near Mr. Ford's retirement home.
President Ford's casket arrived mid-day at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in the town of Palm Desert, where Mr. Ford and his wife worshipped.
A military honor guard led the procession into the church, as a clergyman received the casket.
"With faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the body of our brother, Gerald, for burial," said the minister presiding over the service.
Mrs. Ford and her family took part in a private prayer service. Then, close friends and guests arrived for a visitation, and later in the day, the church would open to members of the public.
Saturday, the casket will be flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and arrive at the U.S. Capitol early evening. The body will lie in repose in the Capitol, in recognition of Mr. Ford's long service as a congressman. After an evening funeral in the Capitol rotunda, the body will lie in state until early Tuesday.
President Bush has declared Tuesday a day of national mourning, and funeral services will be held that day at Washington's National Cathedral.
President Ford will be buried near his presidential library in Grand Rapids, Michigan, following a final memorial service Wednesday. Mr. Ford represented the Michigan district in Congress for 25 years.
He rose in the Republican Party leadership, and in 1973, President Richard Nixon appointed him vice president to replace Spiro Agnew, who was forced to resign by scandal. The following year, Mr. Nixon himself resigned amid a major political scandal known as Watergate, and Mr. Ford became the nation's only unelected president. He served as the nation's chief executive for 2.5 years.
He is credited with helping the nation recover from the two major traumas: the Vietnam War, when ended under his watch, and the Watergate scandal, which forced his predecessor to resign. Tributes have called him a man of integrity who restored public faith in the presidency.