WASHINGTON, D.C., June 13, 2004 -- Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, died late Sunday evening at the age of 90 from natural causes. Sources say wife Betty was at President Ford's bedside at the couple's home in Ann Arbor, Mich., when he died, shortly before 11 p.m.
Sources close to the family say that the President, who served from 1974 to 1977, had been recuperating from pneumonia and had insisted on attending President Reagan's memorial services last week with the other living American Presidents. Speculation has arisen that attending the Reagan memorial events may have been too much for the ailing President.
"Now what the hell are we supposed to do?" asked one White House source, referencing the recently-completed period of national mourning for President Reagan. "We just closed the banks, the libraries, shut down the whole government -- people aren't even back to work yet! Are we supposed to do this whole shebang again? What timing. We're at WAR you know."
Customers at Tom's delicatessen in Washington had mixed reactions when told of the news.
"Well, I think if they just get him in the ground quick, we'll remember them both at the same time, and since they're both republicans, that seems pretty fair," suggested Ted Nielsen from nearby Herndon, V.A. "No sense closing down the country one more day for another dead President. Besides, he was clumsy and he didn't look as good as Ronnie. He couldn't act for shit either."
Margie Wilson sees it differently. "CNN's been war-war-war since 9/11," she said. "Me? I like to break up the monotony of war with a good two-week memorial fest, topped off with a romantic hillside burial service. It's the least we can do to honor our dead presidents. And those who've died in the war. And, well, everyone else who's dead too. For goodness sakes, our dead are national heroes. Really, who knows better than the dead what our country needs right now?"
The passing of Presidents Ford and Reagan raises the issue of the aging crop of Presidents: President Carter turns 80 this year, while President George Bush Sr. marked his 80th birthday today by skydiving in front of thousands of onlookers at Texas A&M University. It appears only President Clinton will escape a funeral within the next five to ten years.
"I was sorry to hear about Gerry," President Clinton said. "And Ronnie," President Clinton said again. "And the thing that really blew me away was that Ray Charles died, and you didn't hear jack about that. You know? Here you have dead Presidents, and, now don't get me wrong, I was a President, but you see we're representatives of the people, and we are paid as public servants to do our jobs. And we have done our jobs. President Reagan did his job. President Ford did his job. And I did my job. But NOT ONE of us could blow like Ray Charles. Not one of us had the soul, the hot ache from the pit of the gut like Ray did. Shit. Awe, shit. Ray's the one I'll miss the most."