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“What I see in the stamp is how I remember my father,” said Mike Ford, shown applauding at the unveiling ceremony at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

Ford family gives stamp of approval
The first painting for the stamp featuring President Gerald R. Ford was rejected by the family — but the second image truly depicts Grand Rapids’ favorite son.

By Ann Byle
Photography by Johnny Quirin

Family and friends agree: The image of former President Gerald R. Ford on the recently issued 41-cent U.S. postage stamp perfectly reflects the strength and warmth of the man who grew up in Grand Rapids and went on to become the 38th President of the United States.

“What I see in the stamp is how I remember my father,” said Ford’s oldest son, Mike Ford. “He had tremendous presence as a person of principle and great authority, but was also a very down-to-earth and empathetic person. We’re very pleased with the final outcome.”

The Gerald R. Ford commemorative stamp was unveiled Aug. 31 in simultaneous ceremonies in Grand Rapids and in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where Betty Ford lives.

“It’s become our unwritten policy to issue a stamp less than a year after a president’s death,” said David Failor, executive director of stamp services with the U.S. Postal Service. “Our policy of late has been to get U.S. presidents on stamps as soon as possible.”

Ford died Dec. 26, 2006. Even before his death, the U.S. Postal Service contacted the Ford family and began the process of creating an image.

“It was flattering and an unexpected honor for my dad,” said Mike Ford.

Portrait artist Michael J. Deas of Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., worked from a variety of photographs of Ford, many sent from the Gerald R. Ford Museum, to create an original oil painting. Ford’s wife, Betty, however, wasn’t thrilled with the original image.

“My mother felt the first rendering was too serious, too dour,” Mike Ford said.


Deas went back to the easel, this time using a photograph of Ford that Betty particularly liked. The photo was taken while Ford was giving a speech; in his painting, Deas made changes so it didn’t look as if Ford was captured in mid-sentence.

Deas did the second portrait in just four weeks, and the new image was immediately approved.

“My mother absolutely loves it,” said Mike Ford. “It captures his strength, and it captures his warmth in the same image.”

Marty Allen, long-time friend of the Fords and chairman emeritus of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, also likes the stamp.

“The image captures those strong blue eyes of his, and it shows a lot of the strength with a trace of a little smile,” said Allen. “It was a look we saw all the time. He would get that little smile and a little glimmer of pride.

“It captures a lot of his strength but also a lot of just the way he was.”

The Ford Museum is planning a major exhibit of Ford memorabilia titled “Ford@95” to run May through July in 2008. GR

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