GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday opened the newest exhibit at the Gerald R. Ford President Museum in Grand Rapids.
"Growing Up Grand" follows former President Gerald Ford from his birth in Nebraska, to his growing up in Grand Rapids, to his graduation from the University of Michigan. It is a first-of-its-kind look at the making of the 38th president.
The Grand Rapids community that shared both triumph and sorrow with the Ford family is seeing just how much the family believes the community helped shape their father's life in the new exhibit.
Before the Ford children cut the ribbon to the new, very personal exhibit, there was a simple, quiet, yet moving moment for a group that has been there for so many Ford events from celebrations to funerals.
"The Army Chorus has been singing for our family since we were in the White House. so they've become sort of an extended family to us. They come to do celebrations and everything else, but they never get a chance to do their own tribute to mom and dad, so we wanted to be sure this morning they go to do that," daughter Susan Ford Bales said.
In the museum, the chorus did what it has done dozens of times for the Fords and added to another milestone for a family that is unveiling the first ever temporary exhibit dedicated solely to the former president.
As with all such displays, every artifact has a story.
"Dad and President Johnson would to toe-to-toe on the issues and I'll never forget President Johnson saying, 'That dang Gerry Ford played too much football without a helmet.' And Dad would say, 'I wore a helmet,'" son Steven Ford said.
That helmet is on display and quite an attraction with a tour hosted by son Michael Ford. All of the Ford children who attended led tours after the unveiling.
All of this is part of a larger celebration that will continue through the year with many remembering the only man form Michigan to ever serve as president in extraordinary and unique circumstances.
"The man was a very unique man. He just oozed with integrity, honesty and fairness and openness and he was transparent," former Ambassador Peter Secchia said.
It took about two years for curator Don Holloway and his team to put the exhibit together.
"Dorothy Ford, his mother, was very careful in keeping a scrapbook on the kids. And with Gerald Ford, there was a lot to include from his activity in Boy Scouts to football, and academics at South High to swimming at the YMCA," said Holloway.
The exhibit will be open to the public throughout the centennial year until May 7, 2014.
A Centennial Birthday Celebration tribute dinner occurred Monday night at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, in which former Vice President Dick Cheney, speech writer Ben Stein, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and others talked about Ford and his impact on the nation.
In celebration of President Ford's 100th birthday, which will be July 14, events will take place throughout the year and be announced periodically.
On Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans will be taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten College Football title. On Friday, fans began gathering in Indianapolis for the big game.
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