Baldacci leads Maine remembrance of President Ford

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AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci said Gerald Ford was admired by Democrats as well as Republicans as he led Maine’s remembrance for the former president Tuesday in the governor’s mansion.

Baldacci, a Democrat, also issued a proclamation honoring the 38th president for his “reputation for integrity and openness throughout his life.”

“Gerald Ford won the admiration and respect of the people while he lived, and his memory will live on in our hearts forever,” says Maine’s proclamation, which was issued while Ford’s state funeral concluded at the Washington National Cathedral.

While federal offices were closed Tuesday, state agencies remained open. In Maine, state employees were given flexible time between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to watch the funeral services and attend the Blaine House remembrance ceremony.

The 20-minute ceremony featured singing of “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America,” a reading of the proclamation, a moment of silence and participation by the Maine Funeral Honors Program and the Maine Army National Guard.

“We lost a man who was proud to serve his country, both in public office and in World War II,” Baldacci said. Some members of legislative leadership also spoke briefly at the low-key ceremony.

House Speaker Glenn Cummings, D-Portland, said Ford’s example of humility and service should serve as a model for the newly seated Legislature. Senate Minority Leader Carol Weston, R-Montville, said Ford helped to heal the country at a time that many people had lost faith in government.

A prepared statement, Baldacci listed some of Maine’s connections to President Ford.

“His vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, was born in Bar Harbor and his family maintains a presence on (Mount Desert Island) to this day,” said Baldacci’s statement.

Former Gov. John McKernan served as Ford’s re-election chairman in Maine in 1976, and Bill Cohen became well-acquainted with Ford as a freshman congressman when Ford was appointed president, Baldacci said. Cohen, a Republican, went on to serve in the Senate and as former President Bill Clinton’s secretary of defense.

Ford visited Maine once as president.

“Bill (Cohen) said it well when he said that Democrats admired him just as much as Republicans did,” Baldacci said.

The ceremony concluded with playing of taps.

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