Memorial service for Gerald Ford planned in Vail |

Memorial service for Gerald Ford planned in Vail

VAIL, Colo. (AP) ” Residents plan a candlelight memorial service Saturday for former President Gerald Ford, an avid skier who helped put the area on the map and worked to promote cultural and educational events in the area.

Ford, who had been in failing health the past few years, died Tuesday at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

“The Vail Valley has truly lost a special friend with the passing of President Ford,” Vail Mayor Rod Slifer and board member of the Vail Valley Foundation, which is organizing the tribute, said in a statement Wednesday.

Ford served on the board of the foundation since its founding in 1981.

The service will begin at 6 p.m. at the base of Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak, a skiing village on the east side of Vail. Vail Resorts also hopes to rename a ski run at each of its Vail and Beaver Creek resorts, though resort spokeswoman Jen Brown said that honor will be done with consultation with Ford’s family.

“His passing has created a tremendous void in this valley that may never be filled, but Saturday evening will be a wonderful opportunity for locals and visitors alike to celebrate and commemorate President Ford,” Slifer said.

Ford began visiting Vail to ski in 1968 when he was a congressman from Michigan and owned a place there when he was appointed president in 1974. He later built a summer home in nearby Beaver Creek. Every year, beginning in 1982, Ford held forums with the American Enterprise Institute featuring world leaders, in an off-the-record meeting designed to provoke.

Ford helped build the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, a center for quality arts, and the Vilar Center for the Performing Arts in Beaver Creek.

He played host for a celebrity golf tournament and for years insisted on turning on the Christmas tree lights in Vail each year. Failing health prevented Ford from participating in the tradition the last two years, Slifer said.

“President Ford touched so many people in this valley,” Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said. “Saturday will be our chance to say thank you to President Ford and the Ford family.”

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