Ford at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 1999
|2nd Chairwoman of the Betty Ford Center|
January 25, 2005
Susan Elizabeth Ford
July 6, 1957
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Susan Elizabeth Ford Bales (born July 6, 1957), an American author, photojournalist, and former chair of the board of the Betty Ford Center for alcohol and drug abuse, is the daughter of Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States.
Ford is the youngest child and only daughter of former U.S. President Gerald Ford and former First Lady Betty Ford. As a teenager attending the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, she held her senior prom, for the class of 1975, in the East Room of the White House. She served as official White House hostess when her mother was hospitalized for breast cancer.
Ford enrolled in Mount Vernon College for Women (now part of the George Washington University) in northwest Washington, D.C. in 1975 when her father was in the White House. She later briefly attended the University of Kansas for the spring semester of 1977, but did not graduate.
Ford Bales trained as a photographer and worked as a photojournalist for the Associated Press, Newsweek, Money Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Omaha Sun and also freelanced. She was hired to shoot publicity stills for the film Jaws 2, with many appearing in Ray Loynd's book Jaws 2 Log.
In 2002 she wrote, with Laura Hayden, a novel, Double Exposure: A First Daughter Mystery, with a contemporary White House setting; in 2005 a sequel, Sharp Focus, was published.
Ford attended the December 26, 2006 - January 3, 2007 state funeral services and ceremonies for her father with her mother, and over the course of several days greeted mourners while President Ford's casket lay in state on the Lincoln Catafalque in the Capital Rotunda and during the public repose at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She read a passage from the Epistle of James during the funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, and her daughter Tyne Berlanga offered one of the prayers during the funeral service at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids. In addition, on January 1, she assisted her mother in receiving dignitaries and official visitors who had come to Blair House, the presidential guest house in Washington, to pay their respects.
On January 16, 2007, Susan Ford spoke at a naming ceremony at the Pentagon for the aircraft carrier CVN-78, which was officially named the Gerald R. Ford. That same day, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter announced that Susan Ford had been named the carrier's ceremonial sponsor. On November 14, 2009, Ford participated in the keel laying for the ship.
On June 11, 2007, she delivered remarks in Washington at the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service's commemorative stamp honoring President Ford. In July 2007, Ford represented her mother at the funeral service of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson; in the same month, she and her husband Vaden Bales represented Mrs. Ford and the Ford family at the naming of the Gerald R. Ford Post Office in Vail, Colorado.
On November 9, 2013, she christened the Gerald R. Ford with a bottle of sparkling water.
On April 8, 2016, during a change of command ceremony aboard USS Gerald R. Ford and in recognition of her "extraordinary service as CVN 78 Ship Sponsor", she was named an honorary naval aviator by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, thus becoming only the 31st person to receive this honor, and the first woman ever to be so honored. The ship was commissioned as USS Gerald R. Ford on July 22, 2017, with Ford Bales in attendance to give the order, "Man our ship, and bring her to life."
In 2018, Ford Bales represented the Ford family at the funerals of Mrs. Barbara Bush and President George H.W. Bush.
She married Charles Vance, one of her father's former U.S. Secret Service agents, on February 10, 1979. For a time they operated a private security company in Washington. They have two daughters, Tyne Mary Vance (born 1980) and Heather Elizabeth Vance (born 1983). Ford and Vance were divorced in 1988. Ford married attorney Vaden Bales in 1989.
In Betty Ford's Betty - A Glad Awakening, her mother credits Susan with having orchestrated an intervention in 1982 after the Ford family became concerned with her drinking, addictions and behavior. In 1984, Ford and her mother, Betty Ford, helped launch National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a joint appearance in an ad campaign.
She and her husband lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after their marriage on July 25, 1989. In 1997 they moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they lived for nearly 12 years before returning to Tulsa in 2009. At age 53 in 2010, Ford went into sudden cardiac arrest while exercising on an elliptical machine. She had no prior knowledge that she had heart disease. Ford says she was "extremely lucky" that while she was in the gym, a surgeon was "walking up the steps" and "shocked" her back. She was revived with an automated external defibrillator. After her recovery, she was given a heart stent and pacemaker. She spoke of the experience on June 4, 2013 at the American Heart Association's Heart Ball in Grand Rapids.
Ford enrolled at KU for the spring semester of 1977, studying photojournalism.