Mourning for Ford

E-mail Adam Housley

December 29, 2006
12:40pm, Palm Desert, CA

Draped in a flag the casket moves slowly up the stairs, the guard of honor has practiced this right numerous times in the last 24 hours. The family stands on either side of the portico, and the Reverend Robert Certain leads the procession. The band continues to play.

The President's casket is placed not far from the pew named in his and wife Betty's honor. This congregation has been in this community for years. The Ford family helped the worshipers raise money for the large church a few years back. St. Margaret's Episcopal Church can hold about 1,000 people, but for right now it holds about 30 — and a man they have come to honor...

Gerald Ford — the President, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

As the casket reaches the front of the church inside, Reverend Certain says a short prayer and the cameras go off. For the next 50 minutes, the family has private time for prayer, hymns and readings.

December 29, 2006
12:20pm, Palm Desert, CA

The day was the type that must have originally drew President Ford to the Southern California desert. The sun was high, the sky a long hazy blue, the mountains barren and tan and the bright sun was reflecting in every direction.

This is my third Presidential service. In college, I stood on the stage just minutes before President Nixon's body arrived in Yorba Linda. For President Reagan, a man I had met and admired, the service took place in the spectacular mountains that overlook Ventura County. Now, I am here ... in Palm Desert.

Highway 74 has been closed and people line the four-lane roadway, which passes by St. Margaret's Episcopal Church. It is warm here and the brisk winds of recent days have calmed.

As the motorcade makes its way up the street, which also slowly rises, into the mountains, I see American flags being held. People of all ages have come to pay their respects. About 25 black Cadillacs, SUVs and police cars pull into the church parking lot.

Even though it remains warm, and the sun and heat radiates off of the freshly paved blacktop and I get a chill. The pride of living in this great country fills many of us, or at least it seems so.

The Marine Corps band plays "Hail to the Chief," the Guard of Honor stands at attention and the casket of Gerald R. Ford is brought slowly and honorably into the church.

Betty, his wife, stands in the portico; she is joined by a military escort and about 30 members of the former first family. The stars and stripes drape the casket, the sun shines on all and the private service for the family begins.

Adam Housley joined FOX News Channel in 2001 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent. Most recently, Housley reported from Hawaii on the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. He also reported from Nicaragua and El Salvador on the war against drugs and scored an exclusive interview with Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega. You can read his full bio here.

Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.