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Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury honors Ford family with birthday gift

President Gerald R. Ford

President Gerald R. Ford would have turned 102 on Tuesday.

The 38th President of the United States was honored in Grand Rapids with dignitaries, family and friends laying a wreath at his presidential museum tomb. 

Paying tribute was Paul O’Neill, the country’s 72nd Secretary of the Treasury and a man who served President Ford.

“It’s not that he was a saint," O'Neill says, "but by God he was pretty close.”

Paul O’Neill served as President Gerald R. Ford’s Deputy Director of the Office Management and Budget.

He explains it was a privilege to sit at the corner of his desk.

“It was just a remarkable time in life to be in a place where everything that was being done mattered a lot," O'Neill says. "The economy was in a disastrous condition and to be there with someone whose rudder was knowledge and facts and every question framed by this proposition; at the end of the day what’s the right thing to do that will advance the American society.”

Doing the right thing, O’Neill told a story to the luncheon crowd gathered at the J.W. Marriott about a portrait of President Ford some friends discovered in their attic.

After much investigative leg work the National Portrait Gallery explained it had no record of it. It was now O’Neill’s and he knew just what to do with it.

“I’m going to take this portrait with me and give it to Susan Ford and let here decide what should be done with it," O'Neill says, "with my suggesting that it would be wonderful for it to hang in the museum in Grand Rapids where people can see it every day.”

Susan Ford Bales graciously accepted the gift.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.