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Rest In Peace, Mr. President

Welcome home, Mr. President.

The plane carrying Ford’s casket landed at the airport that bears his name in Cascade Township.

People aligned the street near DeVos Place to say farewell to the former president.

I closed the office to join hundreds of mourners that lined the route from the airport to the highway. It was an awesome moment joining others in receiving Gerald “Our” Ford back to Grand Rapids.

The casket lies in the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS — Gerald Ford arrived in his hometown for the final time a bit later than scheduled, but with all the ceremony necessary for a man who rose to become the 38th President of the United States.

The aircraft landed just before 3 p.m. in Grand Rapids. A short ceremony, including the University of Michigan marching band playing “Ruffles & Flourishes,” took place before the motorcade began its route to the Ford Museum.

Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Harry Dolan said although there will be traffic tie-ups and periodic street closures, everyone is invited to come down to pay their respects.

Thousands of mourners lined up along the motorcade route from the airport to the Ford Museum.

As the motorcade passed through one of the least pedestrian-friendly areas along the route — 28th Street and Patterson — thousands of people stood silently paying respects, waving gently

One mourner at that intersection told 24 Hour News 8 he came to witness “a bit of history. You never get to see this, otherwise.”

Mourners were also lined up along some of the I-96 overpasses and along the side on the berms on both sides of the road.

Veterans lined up along the Bridge Street bridge, often three-deep, to pay their respects to a fellow veteran. Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts were also in formation, and Eagle Scouts honored the only Eagle Scout to become US President.

When the hearse passed in front of them, all stood silently at attention, honoring one of their own.

The motorcade reached the Ford Museum shortly after 4 p.m.

In the invocation delivered by Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, he said, “though we mourn…we do not grieve without a purpose.” President Ford, he said, challenged this nation to adhere “to the highest standards of ethics and diplomacy, a guiding light to the world.”

Long time friend and a member of the Ford Foundation Mary Allen spoke briefly and quoted author James Cannon. “Grand Rapids,” he said, “a place from which a man can journey far and never leave.” He said Ford learned three rules that he lived by: tell the truth, work hard, and be on time for dinner.

“He learned how to be very competitive but learned how to respect his opponents,” maintaining “decency, integrity, civility and goodwill.” Through the years, Allen would greet Gerald Ford whenever he returned to the city. “I’d say, Welcome home, Mr. President, and he’d say, “It’s good to be home, Marty.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke “on behalf of our 10 million citizens. We are proud and honored to have you here…to the city where you and Betty were married, Betty in a $50 dress and you in muddy shoes.” She went on to say, “Sir, much has been said about your humility and simplicity, but we won’t let that fool us…You were an incredible human being wrapped in a plain brown wrapper.”

An interesting note; Jennifer Granholm (D) actually campaigned for Ford when he decided to run for a full term.

The governor then introduced University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman and Yale University president Richard Levin, representing the two universities where Ford earned degrees on his path to success.

The private ceremony ended as Mrs. Ford and the family left the Museum.

The public is now paying their respects to President Ford in repose, through 11 a.m. Wednesday.