GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Preparations for the funeral of former first lady Betty Ford have been underway for years -- perhaps even when then-President Gerald Ford was in office.
On Tuesday, those plans will be put into effect; first in Palm Desert, Calif., and then in Grand Rapids.
Betty Ford will be buried on what would have been the former president's 98th birthday. Gerald Ford died in 2006.
The barricades aren't up yet, and the funeral route has not been finalized, but the cities of Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids, along with the state of Michigan and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation have been preparing for years.
"Obviously, she's not only our first lady of our country, but the first lady of our city," said Eric DeLong, the deputy city manager of Grand Rapids. "It's very, very important that we honor her in a special way, and that's what we're going to do."
Betty won't have a military funeral like her husband, but more than 10,000 are expected to turn out.
"For President Ford, we had about 60,000 people who waited on a cold December night to come to the museum to pay their respects," said Tim Pietryga, a Ford family spokesman. "So, it's kind of hard to anticipate the crowds this week."
Hundreds of city personnel, as well as officers from several agencies, will be on hand to manage the large crowds.
The exact procession route has not been released, but starting Thursday, Pearl Street will be completely closed so that the motorcade can make its way to the Ford Museum after Betty's funeral service.
Other road closures throughout Grand Rapids will begin Tuesday night and run through Thursday as Mrs. Ford returns home for the final time.
"Obviously, it's a very difficult time for them," Pietryga said. "It's mom, it's grandma, and it's a homecoming. Grand Rapids was very dear to the family, and very dear to the President and Mrs. Ford. You know, it's a homecoming and it's been a very difficult time, but we're doing good."
More than 2,500 people have signed a condolence book for Betty since she died Friday.
More people signed a book in honor of former President Ford 2 1/2 days after he passed, but that was in the middle of winter.
A donation account has been set up to help the family with its search to find a missing loved one.
Wind chills will be in the single figures Thursday, with snowfall totals in the 1- to 3-inch range.
The passenger in a pickup truck that slid off U.S. 31 and rolled over told 24 Hour News 8 that watching the video of the crash is "heart-wrenching."